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Clark takes over reins of Warrior basketball program
Friday, December 7, 2012
By Jaclyn Yingling Sports Editor
ALLPORT - With a new head coach and host of new faces, the West Branch boys basketball team may be considered to be in a transition year.
The Warriors went 14-9 overall last season under head coach Bill Etchison, who resigned to take a job in North Carolina. That put West Branch in the hands of Etchison's long-time assistant Danny Clark.
The Warriors return just four letterwinners to their 2012-13 squad, but one of those is Progressland First Teamer Parker Emigh.
Emigh, who averaged 17.3 points per game last season with 31 treys, will be leaned on heavily to help West Branch compete in the always-tough Inter-County Conference, where West Branch went 9-5 a year ago.
"I've had the pleasure of working with Parker the last four years," said Clark. "He has gotten better every season. It's been great watching him. He is obviously the leader of this team. Everybody looks up to Parker.
"What he needs to work on this year is assist-to-turnover ratio. He needs to have that 2-to-1 ratio. He knows that. That will make the team better. He is the one that makes the team go."
Fellow senior letterwinner Jarrett Rockey, who averaged 2.1 ppg last season, will also be looked to for leadership.
"Jarrett knows the system and I love his effort" Clark said. "We just need him to be a little more consistent. I expect a lot of things out of Jarrett. He's a team leader."
Junior letterwinner Mike Pennington, who was a spark for the Warriors on offense last season, will have to step up his defense and become a total all-around player. Pennington averaged 6.3 ppg last season and knocked down 28 3s.
"Mike Pennington is a great offensive guy," Clark said. "He is a great shooter. But he knows he needs to work on his defense. He has to be a two-way player. I know he can do it. I put a lot of pressure on him, but he needs to prove he can do it."
Sophomore Skyler Krise rounds out the letterwinners. Krise averaged just 1.0 ppg last season on varsity, but was a junior varsity starter who saw plenty of action in the system.
"Skyler lettered as a freshman," said Clark. "I pushed that, because we always need guys who can come up to varsity. He started a little slow last year. But he played every minute in varsity. As the season wore on, he wasn't a freshman anymore. He just has to give me that spark. He is one of the main guys I'm going to go to."
All in all, Clark describes his letterwinners as solid players who have played a lot of minutes.
"We lack experience overall, but we have a lot of playmakers that have played a lot of minutes," he said. "I expect a lot out of the lettermen this year. They have been here and they know how it goes."
The Warriors will also have to replace the hole left by big man Aaron Lidgett. Lidgett averaged 14.1 ppg last season and was a Progressland First Teamer.
"Aaron is a tough guy to replace," Clark said. "He got a lot of dirty work and easy points. We don't have that this year. Height is a big concern. We have to be able to box out as a team. It's going to be tough on defense with bigger teams.
"We want to run and we want to be in transition a lot. But we can't do that if the other team makes every basket. We have to be able to get into our game. We want to press and put a lot of pressure on teams."
West Branch's height this year will come from Kody Trude, who at 6-foot-4 is the team's tallest player. Trude played on the junior high team last year that was very successful and brings a lot to the table, says Clark.
"Kody's transition from junior high to high school has been outstanding," he said. "He is tall and he has long arms. He dribbles, sees the court and plays defense. He seems like a senior to me. I expect really good things from him."
Along with Trude, freshmen Austin Krise, Brandon Zwick and Josh Kerlin are also up as ninth graders. The quartet is already challenging the upperclassmen, something Clark sees as a good thing.
"The practices already are at a higher level with the younger group that has come up," Clark said. "They have been so competitive. You don't know what team is going to be the best on any night.
"Before, if our upperclassmen weren't playing well, they still knew they were going back in. Now, you don't know. That makes them play at a higher level and do the right things."
Sophomores Nate Kerlin, Cam Eboch, Kyle Hamilton and Jesse Martin will join junior Kaiden Koch and seniors John Clark and Steven Bumbarger to round out the roster.
Clark has high goals for the team, which finished as Mo Valley League Co-Champs with a 7-1 record last year.
"I have high goals set for everything we do," he said. "I expect us to be competitive in the ICC, win the Mo Valley League and be in the top tier of the ICC North. There are a lot of good teams in that league. We will see what we are made of.
"It's been a very smooth transition. (Former head coach) Bill (Etchison) wanted me to take over the reigns. It's been easy. (Assistant coach) Terry (Trude) and I know the strengths of our kids."
Trude had been the junior high coach the past few season, so he is very familiar with the sophomores and freshmen on the squad.
West Branch opens the season tonight at Bald Eagle Area.

Roster
Seniors
Steven Bumbarger, John Clark, *Parker Emigh, *Jarrett Rockey.
Juniors
Kaiden Koch, *Mike Pennington.
Sophomores
Cam Eboch, Kyle Hamilton, Nate Kerlin, *Skyler Krise, Jesse Martin.
Freshmen
Josh Kerlin, Austin Krise, Kody Trude, Brandon Zwick.
*Denotes returning letterwinners.

Schedule

December
7-at Bald Eagle Area; 14-at Williamsburg; 17-Curwensville; 18-Claysburg-Kimmel; 21-Mount Union; 27-28-at Everett tournament, TBA.
January
4-Glendale; 9-Harmony; 11-at Bellwood-Antis; 15-Juniata Valley; 18-at Moshannon Valley; 21-Williamsburg; 23-Bald Eagle Area; 24-at Claysburg-Kimmel; 29-at Mount Union; 31-at Glendale.
February
4-Bellwood-Antis; 5-at Harmony; 7-at Juniata Valley; 11-Moshannon Valley; 13-at Curwensville.
Games begin at 7:30 p.m. unless noted.
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