BROADWAY Gobblers

Coach: Dwight Walton (13th season)

District: Valley

Last Season: 17-9 (Lost to Spotswood in Region 3C semifinals)

Key Returners: Jaxson Jameson, senior, guard (8.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.6 apg); Caleb Williams, senior, guard (12.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.1 apg); Ben Alderfer, senior, forward (8.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Nate Tinnell, junior forward (6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg).

Key Losses: Seth Keim, forward (14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Reuben Mast, guard.

Promising Newcomers: Wesley Delawder, senior, forward; Marshall Rhodes, senior, guard; Gage Williford, junior, guard; Luke Garber, sophomore, guard.

Outlook: There’s plenty of experience returning across the board for Broadway this year.

With four key players from a year ago back and several newcomers that have shown promise throughout the preseason, the Gobblers have high expectations this season.

Broadway has shown the ability to put up a lot of points in previous seasons, but it’s the defensive end that BHS coach Dwight Walton said will be the key to his team’s success.

“We have to stay healthy,” he said. “We have to become a solid defensive team.”

The Gobblers senior trio of Jaxson Jameson, Caleb Williams and Ben Alderfer all have established themselves and have a lot of minutes under their belts from previous seasons, but junior forward Nate Tinnell may be the most important piece for Broadway.

With an array of experience back and a renewed focus on the defensive end, the Gobblers should be among the top teams in the Valley District this season.

Walton says: “We have good experience coming back with younger guys working hard to get on the floor. This group is very unselfish and just trying to find their roles. We have a lot of work to do, but this group will meet their full potential hopefully at the right time.”

EASTERN MENNONITE Flames

Coach: Chad Seibert (second season)

Conference: Virginia Independent

Last Season: 21-8 (Lost to Life Christian Academy in Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III championship)

Key Returners: Aviwe Mahlong, senior, wing (16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg); Chance Church, senior, guard (13.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg); Adam Hatter, sophomore, guard (6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.2 apg).

Key Losses: Zach Hatter, guard (18.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.2 apg); Brendan Nussbaum, guard (3.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.1 apg); Jesse Byler, forward; 2.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg); Grant Leichty, forward (2.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Zach Bauman, guard (2.4 ppg).

Promising Newcomers: Nick Jones, junior, forward; Trey Gillenwater, sophomore, guard; Will Jess, junior, forward; Gage Anderson, junior, forward; Ben Ballamy, sophomore, guard.

Outlook: Last year was one of the best seasons in school history for Eastern Mennonite.

But with five seniors now gone, including Virginia Independent Conference Player of the Year Zach Hatter, the Flames are forced to rebuild quickly with an array of fresh faces.

With Trey Gillenwater and Nick Jones both joining the EMHS roster this season to join forces with Aviwe Mahlong, Chance Church and Adam Hatter, the Flames have a solid core of talent that should make them the favorite to win the VIC once again this year.

“Our biggest keys are effort, attitude and toughness,” EMHS coach Chad Seibert said.

Eastern Mennonite will play with an energetic, up-tempo attack this season and will try to get in transition as much as it can with full-court defensive pressure mixed with chaos.

If the Flames are able to do so successfully, they’ll be a serious threat to return to the VISAA Division III tournament for a second time and possibly bring home a title.

Seibert says: “It has been a great challenge reconstructing our program after losing five seniors, along with three of our top seven this year due to injury. Having a program with so many newcomers makes for a unique challenge as we look to continue the chemistry and team play that we had last year.”

EAST ROCKINGHAM Eagles

Coach: Carey Keyes (sixth season)

District: Bull Run

Last Season: 26-4 (Lost to Radford in Virginia High School League Class 2 championship)

Key Returners: Tyler Nickel, sophomore, forward (22.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.4 apg); Tyce McNair, senior, guard (10.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.7 apg); Kyle Evick, junior, forward; Matt Good, senior, guard; Lane Comer, junior, guard.

Key Losses: Dalton Jefferson, forward (17.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg); Colin Wigley (8.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Promising Newcomers: Da’rius Lam, senior, forward; Cooper Keyes, sophomore, guard; Xavier Butler, freshman, forward.

Outlook: With the city/county’s best player back leading the charge, expectations for the East Rockingham program are once again high this season after reaching the VHSL Class 2 state championship game a year ago and winning the Region 2B title.

Tyler Nickel, a 6-foot-7 sophomore with three Division I offers already under his belt, burst onto the scene a year ago and makes the Eagles the Bull Run District favorite already.

But with other key pieces such as point guard Tyce McNair, forward Kyle Evick and others around him, East Rockingham should still be considered one of the area’s top teams.

“Defense and rebounding are always critical to our success,” ERHS coach Carey Keyes said. “We have to share the ball on offense and continue to make each other better.”

There’s no denying how big the loss of Dalton Jefferson will be for the Eagles.

But with Nickel and McNair back and several newcomer opening eyes throughout the preseason, East Rock is in good shape for another solid postseason outing this year.

Keyes says: “We are excited to start a new journey with an awesome group of kids that have had a great offseason of work. We look forward to the challenge of replacing seven players from our state runner-up team from last season. With the great success of our football team, we are confident they will bring a winning attitude and toughness to our team. As always we will take it one day at a time and set the goal of being our best at tournament time.”

HARRISONBURG Blue Streaks

Coach: Don Burgess (fifth season)

District: Valley

Last Season: 13-8 (Lost to William Fleming in Region 5D first round)

Key Returners: Tre Butler, senior, guard (7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg); D’Shawn Fields, senior, forward (8.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Claudeson Tacy, senior, forward (3.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Jackson Weakley, senior, forward; Jaziel Mensah-Agyekum, junior, point guard; Jazen Walker, junior, forward.

Key Losses: Christian Velker, guard; Josh Lichti, forward.

Promising Newcomers: Jesse Lichti, junior, guard; Elijah Harvey, senior, forward;

Outlook: Despite losing five seniors to graduation, expectations haven’t changed for Harrisonburg this season under fifth-year coach and HHS alum Don Burgess.

With the loss of Josh Lichti and Christian Velker, a pair of all-region players a year ago, the Blue Streaks will be forced to rely on a more collective effort most nights to score.

Despite losing several pieces, the depth on Harrisonburg’s roster remains a strength.

“For us to be successful, we’ll have to consistently lead by example and be able to produce in the areas of scoring and rebounding,” Burgess said. “We will have to collectively fill the shoes of those lost to graduation on both the defensive and offensive end of the court. We have many players who will be called upon to contribute.”

The Streaks will certainly play their fair share of tough opponents this season with one of the most challenging non-district schedules of any city/county team, but that’s something Burgess said his team embraces in order to help them to improve.

If Harrisonburg can find consistent scoring and cut down on turnovers, the Blue Streaks should be in contention in a wide open Valley District and possibly make a playoff run.

Burgess says: “We will be a team that I want to play hard, compete, and play together. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of promising growth, which I am hoping to see through the course of the season. With so many new roles for returning players on varsity and the graduation of so much production, this team is going to have to have a collected effort each night for us to be successful. We have so many players who will be asked to accept new roles on this team, which is exciting as a coach because each of these players are working hard and eager to show that they can produce in these new roles.”

SPOTSWOOD Trailblazers

Coach: Chad Edwards (15th season)

District: Valley

Last Season: 24-4 (Lost to Cave Spring in Virginia High School League Class 3 quarterfinals)

Key Returners: Rob Smith, senior, guard (11.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.1 apg); Carmelo Pacheco, sophomore, guard (3.8 ppg); D’Andre Good, senior, guard; Ryan High, junior, forward (4.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg).

Key Losses: Angel Pachecho-Ortiz, forward (16.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 apg); Kaleb Strawderman, guard (9.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.2 apg); Elijah Mushagasha, forward (8.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 apg); Michael Hunter, guard (7.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.7 apg); Connell Ischinger, guard.

Promising Newcomers: Michael Shifflett, junior, forward.

Outlook: After a heartbreaking loss to end its year in the VHSL Class 3 quarterfinals and the loss of five key seniors, it’d be easy to expect a rebuild this season for Spotswood.

But that’s now how the Trailblazers do things and it’s why they’ve established themselves as the area’s premier boys basketball program with seven straight district titles.

Rob Smith is the only starter back for Spotswood as a 6-foot-4 athletic guard, but has forward Ryan High and guards Carmelo Pacheco and D’Andre Good surrounding him.

“We have to gel quickly and build chemistry,” SHS veteran coach Chad Edwards said. “We have to navigate a difficult schedule and be ready for the playoffs [once they start].”

The Trailblazers’ season will get off to a late start due to the success of the football team, but that won’t hinder the program’s expectation of a district championship.

In fact, if the pieces around Smith come together once again, Spotswood will once again compete with Broadway and Harrisonburg for an eighth straight league title this year.

Edwards says: "I am excited about this collection of players. This year's team has good overall size and athleticism. I also like the versatility of our roster as several guys can play multiple positions. This group has paid their dues in our program and are now charged with leading our team this season. I am anxious to get our entire roster on the court to start working to maximize our potential."

TURNER ASHBY Knights

Coach: Bryan Mathews (first season)

District: Valley

Last Season: 5-18 (Lost to Waynesboro in Valley District quarterfinals)

Key Returners: Orion Angelopulos, senior, forward; Ethan Gerber, senior, guard; Nick Griffin, senior, guard; Tyson Snow, junior, guard; Nico Valle, senior, forward; Grant Swinehart, sophomore, guard.

Key Losses: Ben Yoder, guard; Alec Shipe, guard; Stuart Brunk, forward.

Promising Newcomers: Collin Brunk, junior, guard; Peyton Garber, junior, guard; Noah Gerber, senior, forward; Garret Spruhan, sophomore, forward.

Outlook: With several big pieces gone from a team that won just five games a year ago and a first-year coach in Bryan Mathews, Turner Ashby could be due for a rebuild.

But the Knights have focused on building depth and fundamentals while maintaining a team-oriented style as they desperately try to turn around a program that has struggled.

One of the biggest keys for TA will be improving defensively and cutting down on turnovers, which is an area the Knights struggled mightily with last season.

If the Knights are able to improve in both of those areas, they should see more wins.

Just how many Turner Ashby can put together in a tough Valley District is to be seen, but with a new focus on the offensive and defensive end, the Knights should look improved.

Mathews says: "Very excited to begin the new season with this group and get back to TA basketball. They are selfless teammates, want to be a great unit of depth, and emphasize being coachable players every day. They are eager to develop together as a team and represent TA the best they can, which makes each day more enjoyable."

Contact Cody Elliott at 574-6284 or celliott@dnronline.com | Follow Cody on Twitter: @Cody_DNRSports

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