There are a lot of new faces in new places this scholastic basketball season around the region, so here's a little bit of a primer, because some of it will take some getting used to.
First, State College and Mifflin County no longer are independents. Both have joined the Harrisburg-centered Mid-Penn Conference in all sports. However, both schools still are competing in District 6 when it comes to the playoffs - that will make it interesting when March rolls around, because only one Class AAAA team from the district advances to the state tournament this year and next.
Southern Huntingdon has moved from the North Division of the Inter-County Conference to the South, where the Rockets will compete with schools like Northern Bedford, Tussey Mountain and Everett instead of Bellwood-Antis, Williamsburg and Claysburg. Both the school's teams had coaching changes, too, with longtime girls coach Phil Speck turning the reigns over to Todd Cornelius.
That switch opened the door for ICC North teams to have a couple of more open dates on the schedule, enabling Glendale to add a girls tipoff tournament. Part of the result this year is Moshannon Valley playing Williamsburg four times.
The Mountain League has tightened up from 10 teams to eight, with Central Mountain going the route as an independent and Juniata returning to the Tri-Valley League (although the latter school still is part of District 6). Clearfield, meanwhile, remains fully in the Mountain League.
Along with some of the league shuffling, this season also marks a new cycle for PIAA classifications.
The biggest move as far as schools in the area go is that Hollidaysburg and Tyrone girls, as mentioned last year, both are out of Class AAA, where they faced off in the 2012 finals. The Lady Tigers now are part of the demanding mix in 6-AAAA, while the Lady Eagles are part of a deep pool of teams in 6-AA.
Filling the void in Class AAA is Forest Hills. The Lady Rangers have gotten the bump up after winning 6-AA last year and look like the front-runner, right now.
On the boys side of the ledger, things got a lot tougher in Class AA, both in District 6 and District 5. In District 6, Bald Eagle Area has dropped down from Class AAA, where it was a playoff team last season; the Eagles are off to a good start, too, unbeaten through eight games.
Meanwhile, perennial District 5 Class A power Southern Fulton is up to AA, where the Indians join an outstanding group of teams that includes Conemaugh Township, Tussey, Northern Bedford and Chestnut Ridge.
Speck's departure - as well of that of BG's Josh Baker - and the returns of Jeff Appleman and Reggie Nevins, meanwhile, aren't the only high profile coaching changes around the region.
Terry Bard has inherited a very good team from long-time Southern Fulton girls coach Mark Mellott and hasn't missed a beat, entering the second week of January undefeated. Similarly, Penns Manor's girls are playing well despite Ken Holby passing the reigns to Jason Miloser. Rich Price, who had a successful run with the Windber girls program, is trying his hand at returning Johnstown's girls to D6 prominence.
There weren't as many coaching changes in the boys ranks, but four of them (Marion Center, Penns Manor, Saltsburg and United) took place among the nine teams in the Heritage Conference.
Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.