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Highlighted by Waverly’s first Section IV title in nearly three decades, the boys basketball season in the Valley was pretty solid, with all four teams advancing to the postseason, and three of the four registering winning records.

Can these four programs duplicate their success, or improve on it in 2024-25?

The crystal ball, while still a bit murky with the season still more than eight months away, says three of the four teams could take a step or two back next year:

Athens Wildcats: The Wildcats have graduated a ton of talent over the last few years, yet coach Jim Lister has kept them on the plus-side on the win-loss ledger, posting a 14-9 record this season.

Next year could be his biggest coaching challenge. Athens loses three senior starters, and one its first players off the bench from a team that had very little varsity experience to begin the season.

Next year’s team will have Jase Babcock, and Nick Robbins returning, along with Nick Grazul, who missed the second half of the season with an injury, and a pair of role players — Troy Rosenbloom, and Peter Jones — who will need to fill bigger roles.

The Athens JV team was solid, and has three or four players — James Friend, Adam Kemp, Eli Hobday, and Talon Baglini — capable of contributing.

Prediction: Lister will need to mix the ingredients perfectly, and find someone to play in the paint. The Wildcats will be competitive in the NTL, but it will be Troy’s league to win again. The postseason, especially with Athens bumping up to Class 5A, will be an uphill challenge. … 2024-25 record: 12-10 regular season.

Sayre Redskins:
The Redskins graduated 1,000-point scorer Jackson Hubbard, and had no proven scorer returning from a team that won the program’s first-ever NTL Small School title.

Junior Nick Pellicano stepped up and became one of the best players in the NTL, while first-year coach Paul Blythe did a nice job molding a team of juniors, none of whom had a ton of varsity experience, into a .500 team that improved as the season progressed.

The Redskins, who finished 11-12 after a loss in the Class AA quarterfinals, should have a good, experienced starting five in Pellicano, Zach Senese, Hudson Trump, Karter Green, and Ryan Ressler in 2024-25, with sophomore-to-be Declan Barry coming off the bench.

Prediction: If Blythe can cultivate some depth this summer, there’s no reason to think Sayre can’t return to the top of the Small School standings in the NTL, and possibly make a little noise in the postseason. … 2024-25 record: 14-8 regular season.

Tioga Tigers:
The Tigers bumped up to Class B this season, beefed up their schedule with a senior-laden team, and posted a 13-8 record, with the season ending in the quarterfinals at Lansing — the eventual Section IV runner-up.

Tioga graduates four starters, and its first big man off the bench, and only returns three players — starter Shea Bailey, and Brady Landmesser, and Jackson Bombard who saw quality minutes off the bench this season. Another reserve, Jackson Clark, will also see a bigger role next year for the Tigers.

The JV team was solid this season, and has a number of players — James Miller, Gavin Kithcart, Dominic Palmer, and Derek Mills — who could step up and contribute next year.

The good thing for the new Tioga coach is the Tigers are back in Class C in 2024-25.

Prediction: Tioga’s new coach will be looking to replace the majority of this year’s scoring, and rebounding, and will do it with only three or four players with any varsity experience whatsoever. That said, he’ll have some good athletes to work with in a league that is usually kind to rebuilding teams. … 2024-25 record:  8-11 regular season.

Waverly Wolverines:
Waverly posted an 18-4 record, and won the program’s first Section IV title since 1996, but the Wolverines graduate Joey Tomasso, Jay Pipher, Jake VanHouten, Ethan Perry, and Jake Benjamin from its rotation.

The cupboard, however, is not bare as the Wolverines return Hogan Shaw, who can score in bunches as evidenced by a career-high 42-point outburst early in the season, 6-5 Xavier Watson, and Kolsen Keathley.

Waverly’s JV team, which won the STAC Championship, should provide some re-enforcements, led by Ben Shaw, Carson Rockwell, Bryce LaForest, Porter Daddona, Peyton Robinson, and Carter Davies.

Prediction: No one plays more summer basketball than Waverly, so coach Lou Judson will have plenty of time to mold this team. They play in a tough division with Seton Catholic, and Owego, which should once again have them ready for a run at a Class B title. … 2024-25: 13-6 regular season.

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