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Area's boys hoops teams ready to play

ENOLA -- For the last couple weeks of football season, Gary Martin was holding his breath.

In Week 9, the Greencastle-Antrim boys basketball coach saw one of his top players go down when Spencer Meyers broke his left arm in two places.

In Week 10, the Blue Devils played Sam Sprague at quarterback and wide receiver, and for most of the second quarter, he sat on the sideline having his knee examined.

"I worry every year," Martin said. "I've only missed two football games in six seasons, and you hope nobody gets hurt. You're hoping they succeed and get through, but you understand that they want to play. So, if (Sam) had've been hurt and been out for the season, it still would've made sense that he played because you had to play him in his last game."

Sprague, who missed half of last year's basketball season, wasn't hurt during football season, but Meyers may miss a good portion, if not all, of basketball season.

"We're going to lose a little bit of size with him because he was standing at 6-foot-4," Sprague said. "But I think we'll be all right. Coming off the bench, we have Matt Lutz, who is about 6-foot-5, and we'll have some size inside with Ian (Gelsinger), too."

Greencastle, along with all the other area's basketball teams, is prepping for the season, which unofficially kicked off at the Mid Penn Conference Basketball Media Day on Wednesday at PennLive.

"We're excited to get the season going," Sprague said. "We had our freshman really step up last year with Bryan (Gembe), Ian and Brandon (Stuhler). Plus, we have Casey (Hoover) and myself, so I feel that we all have a lot of varsity experience. We've all played AAU basketball, too, so we've faced talent outside of Franklin County."

ON THE UPSWING >> Chambersburg is looking to make big improvements this year.

The Trojans now have the advantage of having coach Shawn Shreffler back with an entire season under his belt after his reinstatement.

"You gain a lot of experience going through a season together," Shreffler said. "You learn a lot about yourselves and who you are and things you need to do in the offseason to get better. That allowed us to establish some goals of things that we needed to do to improve and get better."

Although Chambersburg may not see the return of big man Austin Suders, the Trojans did get a big surprise from Cade Whitfield, who came on strong at the end of last season.

"We went 5-5 down the stretch, and the five guys that started those games are all back," Shreffler said. "We have a core group of guys that are returning that have some good experience from last year."

Whitfield said, "I'll just do what's needed to win games. I don't want to set the bar too high for personal goals; I just want to get wins. As long as I'm helping the team, I'm happy."

DEFENDING CHAMPS >> Shippensburg coach Ray Staver will be the first to say a repeat isn't all that easy.

Last year, the Greyhounds won the Mid Penn Colonial Division.

"It's always a challenge," Staver said. "It's a lot easier the first time. The second time, you have a bullseye on your chest. Everyone is shooting for you. Our kids certainly understand that, and we'll talk about it. They feel like they are going to be pretty good. Talk is cheap, though. You have to go out on the floor and perform."

It also might be awhile before the Hounds can really start practicing. Shippensburg's football team is still alive, facing off against Solanco on Friday. Meanwhile, basketball practice begins Monday.

"Honestly, right now, my mind is on football because it's the sport I'm in right now," said Wade Mills, a dual-sport athlete. "I can't even go to open gyms right now, so that's tough. I'm not really in basketball shape, so the transition will be hard but I'll be able to handle it."

STARTING OFF WELL >> James Buchanan finished with a 9-13 record a year ago, and will be looking to make strides.

It'll be especially important for the Rockets to kick off well, as they host the fifth annual Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament.

"We hosted it the first time around, so we're looking forward to it," JB coach Larry Strawoet said. "It gives you a playoff atmosphere right at the beginning, and that's sort of what the thought was going into the Franklin County Tournament. Hopefully, we'll have a better start than we have in the past. Playing at home gives us a little more comfort."