The Ellwood City boys have been waiting for a breakout season.
The Wolverines think this is the year for it. They welcome back four starters in Steve Antuono, Milo Sesti, Alexander Roth and Ryan Gibbons from a team that finished 5-7 in WPIAL Section 1-3A action and 10-12 overall.
“Things are going well. I am real excited and looking forward to this year,” Ellwood City coach Steve Antuono said. “Three guys who started as freshmen (Antuono, Sesti and Roth) are now juniors and they should take ownership of this team. I think they’ve earned that right. It’s their turn to show leadership.
“We have a supporting cast of guys who have played a lot of basketball. We’ve competed the last two years and we’re really looking forward to this year and the opportunity to play.”
Seniors Sam DiCaprio and Danny Ditri are returning letterwinners. Freshman Joseph Roth could see some time as well. A 6-foot-4 big man, he gives the Wolverines some interior options.
“I think the strength will be that we have multiple guys that can play together. They complement each other well,” coach Antuono said. “We have to see what we look like in games, but they seem to be unselfish and play together.”
Ellwood City looks forward to its diverse lineup being a tough matchup for opponents.
“I think, offensively, we can be better because the guys complement each other. They are all so different. One guy can shoot it; one guy can handle it; one guy can pass. They have a niche for playing together,” coach Antuono said. “Those three juniors, especially, do a great job playing together and, adding some pieces around them, hopefully, it can be a fun season. Those kids are a lot more seasoned, more mature and their bodies finally look like high school kids.”
The Wolverines will see some different opponents in section play this year. Aliquippa, New Brighton and Lincoln Park are out, but Laurel and Mohawk are in with Beaver Falls, Neshannock and Riverside.
“Neshannock and Beaver Falls are the two teams I look to be at the top this season. Add in Laurel, which is definitely a senior-oriented team and it’s tough,” coach Antuono said. “It’s never going to be easy in our section. We have to compete and work to get better.”
The Wolverines’ preseason was affected by the pandemic, so they understand any time on the court is precious.
“This team has impressed me with its leadership in the fact they are more mature. They know the importance of each practice and each game,” coach Antuono said. “We have to take everything seriously and prepare very well. We just have to take one game at a time. We can’t look too far ahead because we never know what we might get. We might be reduced to playing just section games this year. It just depends on how things go.”