High School Basketball Season Preview: Hempfield Area Spartans

Spartans boys feature youth while the girls come in after strong offseason

Wed Nov 30, 2022 - 6:48PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Brooke McCoy and Harrison Sowers will lead the Spartans this season. (Photo by www.westernpasports.com)Brooke McCoy and Harrison Sowers will lead the Spartans this season. (Photo by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Fri Dec 02, 2022 - 1:04AM

Hempfield Area Spartans Boys

Head Coach: Bill Swan – 9th year of second stint

Conference: Class 6A Section 2

Last Season: 7-16 overall – lost to Mount Lebanon in WPIAL Class 6A first round

Key Losses: Sean Gordon, Joe Fiedor, Chaz Ewer, Dom Hipps, Brandon Learn, Dan Sierk

Key Returners: Harrison Sowers

Promising Newcomers: Caden Biondi, Drew Gordon, Aaron Woodley, Max Williams, Dylan Firmstone, Matthew Vohs, Drew Hagins, Carson Santangelo

Hempfield Area head coach Bill Swan has been coaching high school basketball for nearly 20 years, but this version of the Spartans will be the youngest team he’s ever guided. Following the graduation of eight seniors, Hempfield Area has just one letterwinner back in the fold.

“Going to be lots of growing pains; we will compete and battle,” said Swan, who achieved his 250th career win as a head coach last season.

During that 2021-22 campaign, the Spartans were led by a veteran group. Forward Sean Gordon paced the team with 19 points per game, while Joe Fiedor averaged 13 points. Chaz Ewer, Dom Hipps, Brandon Learn, and Dan Sierk all played crucial roles, while JJ Donnelly and Gavin DiClaudio also contributed.

With those players leading the way, the Spartans won seven games, finishing in a three-way tie for third in the section, which allowed them to qualify for the WPIAL Class 6A postseason. The season ended with a 24-point road loss to Mount Lebanon in the playoffs, however.

The Blue Devils will be one of four new section foes for the Spartans, who will also contend with Upper St. Clair, Baldwin, and Canon-McMillan. Rival Norwin joins the Spartans as they shift to Class 6A Section 2.

A new collection of section opponents seems fitting for a team that is expected to have eight rotational players earning their first significant varsity minutes. The lone experienced player back is Harrison Sowers, who posted 10 points and 2.5 rebounds per game a year ago, while also shooting 36 percent from behind the three-point line. A pair of seniors who cracked the varsity roster last year - Drew Hagins and Carson Santangelo – are joined by newcomers Caden Biondi, Drew Gordon, Aaron Woodley, Max Williams, Dylan Firmstone, and Matthew Vohs.

Inexperienced Hempfield Area could benefit from section play not commencing until January, as the Spartans will have a nonsection matchups against Greensburg Salem, Penn-Trafford, Fox Chapel Area, Ligonier Valley, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, and Connellsville Area.

Hempfield Area Spartans Girls Basketball

Head Coach: Tom Brush – 5th season

Conference: Class 6A Section 1

Last Season: 5-16 overall – missed playoffs

Key Losses: Capri DeCaro, Alexis Hainesworth, Phoebe Snyder

Key Returners: Ashley Hosni, Brooke McCoy, Sarah Podkul, Mia Shipman

Promising Newcomers: Ayiana Martin, Allison Cervola, Ava Shipman, Madalyn Pevarnik, Gabby Coccia, Katarina DeVito

Last season, the Hempfield Area girls endured a pair of long losing streaks. As a result, the Spartans went 5-16 overall, winning just twice in section play.

There’s reason for optimism in 2022-23, though, and the Spartans have already had a taste of winning during the offseason.

To that point, Hempfield Area won the Westmoreland Summer League at the Greensburg YMCA. Additionally, the Spartans fared well at both a summer shootout at Seton Hill University and a team camp at California University of Pennsylvania.

As a result, fifth-year head coach Tom Brush has called this the best offseason his team has had during his tenure at Hempfield Area.

“While we still have a lot of work to do, I am very optimistic about this team,” Brush stated. “We have a lot of players who can come in and contribute at the varsity level.”

Among those players are four returning contributors, including a pair of double-digit scorers. Senior guard/forward Brooke McCoy, who has garnered Division III college interest, averaged 12.8 points and 6 rebounds last season. Meanwhile, junior guard Sarah Podkul posted 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 2021-22. Junior guard Ashley Hosni (5.1 points, 4.5 rebounds) and sophomore forward Mia Shipman (6.1 points, 4.5 rebounds) also made an impact last campaign.

Several other players are expected to take on a larger role this year, including five underclassmen. Senior forward Ayiana Martin will be joined by sophomore guard Allison Cervola, freshmen guards Ava Shipman and Madalyn Pevarnik, and freshmen forwards Gabby Coccia and Katarina DeVito in vying for minutes.

As a result of realignment, the Spartans shifted to Class 6A Section 1, which will bring a drastic change. Instead of competing primarily against South Hills opponents, the Spartans are now paired with rival Norwin, as well as Butler Area, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, and Seneca Valley. From that group, the Tigers captured a section crown, while the Knights and Raiders also made the postseason.

Despite the competitive section, the Spartans have set a goal to make the playoffs.

“There definitely will not be any easy games. We will need to be ready for each and every game,” said Brush.

Section play commences on Jan. 2 with a road game against Pine-Richland.