2021-22 Basketball Season Preview: Kiski Area Cavaliers

Cavliers boys will be led by KA grad; Kiski Area girls look to improve with experience

Fri Dec 17, 2021 - 2:14PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
James Pearson and Lexi Colaianni are among the returners for Kisk Area this season.James Pearson and Lexi Colaianni are among the returners for Kisk Area this season.

Last Updated: Fri Dec 17, 2021 - 2:39PM

Kiski Area Cavaliers Boys Basketball

Head Coach: Corey Smith – 1st season

Conference: Class 5A Section 3

Last Season: 5-15 overall record – Lost to Trinity in WPIAL Class 5A preliminary round

Key Losses: Frank DiNinno, Aiden Wilwohl

Key Returners: LeBryn Smith, Isaiah Gonzalez, Jason Flemm, James Pearson, Brayden Dunmire, Dylan Hutcherson, Logan Johnson

Promising Newcomers: Joe Lukas, Owen Pearson, Dom DiNinno, Noah Thimons

Kiski Area first-year head coach Corey Smith is grateful to be back at his alma mater. Smith, a 2002 graduate, replaced Will Saunders, who guided the Cavaliers to a 5-15 record last campaign.

Smith has proven capable of building a winning program, as he helped the Leechburg boys team achieve its most successful run in a decade. In three seasons with the Blue Devils, Smith posted a mark of 34-25, including an appearance in the state playoffs in 2019. He was surprisingly not retained following that campaign, however.

While the Cavs struggled in 2020-21, an experienced collection of returners should prove to be more capable this season. Just two players graduated, while more than a half dozen rotation players are back in the mix.

Perhaps the most notable returner is junior point guard LeBryn Smith, the son of the head coach. Smith is joined by a quartet of seniors – forwards James Pearson and Brayden Dunmire, and guards Dylan Hutcherson and Logan Johnson. A pair of sophomores, shooting guard Isaiah Gonzalez and small forward Jason Flemm, are also expected to play key roles.

Another senior, forward Joe Lukas, returns to the Cavs after transferring from the Kiski School, while junior Dom DiNinno and sophomores Owen Pearson and Noah Thimons have also shown promise.

Last campaign, Kiski Area finished sixth out of seven teams in Class 5A Section 3. Aside from the Cavs, half of the teams in the section have new coaches, which has created an uncertain outlook. However, Smith has some familiarity with the section opponents - Penn Hills, Franklin Regional, Greater Latrobe, Gateway, McKeesport Area, and Woodland Hills - as he’s watched his son play against them.

“I expect my team to compete each night and play with a ton of confidence,” Smith said. “My team will be prepared for each game, and I expect us to be part of the section “talk” at the end of the season.”

Kiski Area, which opens section play on Friday at Franklin Regional, notched victories against Derry Area and host Burrell in a tournament on the opening weekend of the season.

Kiski Area Cavaliers Girls Basketball

Head Coach: Nick Dizon – 4th season

Conference: Class 5A Section 2

Last Season: 3-17 overall record – Lost to McKeesport Area in WPIAL 5A preliminary round

Key Losses: Sam Worthing

Key Returners: Abbie Johns, Lexi Colaianni, Cora Coleman, Karly Keller

Promising Newcomers: Maddie Joyce, Rikiya Garcia

Kiski Area girls basketball coach Nick Dizon is hopeful that last season’s struggles will pay dividends this season. The Cavaliers won just three contests in 2021, and finished on a 14-game skid. However, several key pieces return this season, and the Cavs will undoubtedly be a more seasoned group.

“We played a lot of young kids last year. We are still a young team, but hope to build off of the learning experiences of last year” said Dizon, in his fourth season at the helm. “We hope to be competitive and improve on our record from last season.”

Kiski Area absorbed just one notable loss in guard Sam Worthing, but the Cavs return senior forward Karly Keller, junior guard Lexi Colaianni, and sophomores guard/forward Abbie Johns and forward Cora Coleman. Keller is a Grove City College commit for soccer, while Colaianni, who is returning from a hip injury that sidelined her in 2020-21, has garnered Division III basketball interest. Another possible returner is 6-foot-1 senior center Dejah Burnett, who tore her ACL during the offseason and is hoping to get back on the court.

A pair of freshmen could also make an impact for the Cavaliers, as guard Maddie Joyce and forward Rikiya Garcia have already caught the eye of their coach. In total, eight freshmen cracked the varsity roster.

The Cavs finished winless in Class 5A Section 2 last campaign, while Hampton, Fox Chapel Area, and Armstrong all posted winning marks, and Mars Area, Plum, and Indiana registered at least five section victories apiece. The Talbots and Little Indians project as the top contenders this season.

Opening the season last weekend in the Burrell Tournament, Kiski Area split its games, defeating the host Buccaneers, while dropping a decision to Homer-Cente