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Bridgeport Will Be Looking To Replace Four Veteran Starters

By KIM NORTH

For the News-Register

BRIDGEPORT — To say the 2021-22 boys basketball season is going to be a rebuilding year for Bridgeport would be a correct assessment.

The Bulldogs lost four veteran starters to graduation, while the fifth transferred out of the district.

Head coach Donnie Cash, who is entering his 17th season in that position and 21st with the program, does have three returners from last winter, but not one of them scored a point or secured a rebound.

“We don’t have much experience. We’re very green at every position,” Cash said. “We’re taking it day-by-day just trying to get them to learn different things. We want them to develop a good work ethic and compete hard in practice to make themselves better. It’s a day-to-day process.”

Picking up their diplomas were leading scorer Riese O’Kernick; Cooper Dulesky, who Cash said was the ‘X’ factor last season; point guard Adam Sommer, who ran the offense; and three-point specialist Dylan Gregorcic.

Quentin Burlenski, who played a big role as a freshman, transferred to Wheeling Central. Several players opted to not come out this season.

The returners include senior Ciaran Flanagan (5-10), junior Daniel Spurlock (6-0) and sophomore Alex Moore (5-9).

“All three of those kids played at the JV level last year,” Cash noted. “They are all going to be expected to step up this season.

“Alex was the JV leading scorer. We are looking for him to expand his role this year,” Cash said. “He’s probably the most talented kid on the team. He’s been in the program for a while now and he knows what we expect from him. He’s a slasher who can get to the basket.

“We are going to ask Ciaran and Daniel to expand their roles, as well,” Cash continued. The other senior is Aiden Tarr (5-8).

“He hasn’t played for a couple of years but he has looked good so far in practice,” Cash said.

The head coach is also looking for a lot from Flanagan and Tarr as leaders.

“They are both guards. We’re looking for a lot of leadership from both of them. We need them to be role models for the younger kids.

“With only 12 kids on the team we’re asking them to lead by example and show the younger kids how to work hard.”

Other juniors are Gary Widmor (6-1), Kyle Kerns (5-8) and Hunter Hannahs (6-1).

“Gary is a transfer from St. Clairsville,” Cash continued. “We’re still trying to find out what he can do to help us.”

Because of his switching schools, Widmor will have to sit out the last half of the season due to the OHSAA transfer rule.

Kerns is also new to the program.

“He’s coming along. He’s learning the system,” Cash said.

Hannahs is another player out for the first time.

“He’s a good-sized kid. We just need to develop him and get him some skill work.”

A.J. Gear (6-1) is the other sophomore.

“A.J. didn’t play last year but has played in junior high. He has been great in practice so far, but like everyone else, we’re trying to find the right position for him so he can adapt on the court,” Cash said. “He’s a hard-working kid that I’ve been pleased with.”

Four freshmen complete the youthful roster. They are Avery Jackson (6-1), Lyrik Brown (5-10), Daniel Goff (5-8) and Kamdy Cerra (5-9).

“Avery has been pretty good for a freshman,” Cash allowed. “He’s picked up some things right away and will probably be one of those kids that get thrown into the fire right away. He’s battling for a starting spot, but there will be plenty of playing time for him.

Cerra and Goff are out for the first time and will play at the junior varsity level.

Cash is a realist and knows that some significant growing pains could be on the horizon.

“We want to get better every day in practice and be able to compete. We need to develop a better work ethic in practice because when you lose a senior-dominated class like we did, you lose a lot,” he said. “Our basketball IQ needs to get better, as well.

“I told the kids don’t worry about the score, we just need to compete,” he continued. “We know this is going to be a rebuilding year. I hate to say that, but when you lose what we lost, it’s like starting fresh … all over again.”

With all the turnover in personnel, Cash said his philosophy will change.

“We pressed and ran the court last year,” he noted. “We won’t be able to do that this year, but we have to adjust to the skill level of our kids. The coaches have to take a step back and look at and think about what we can do to the best of our abilities.”

The Bulldogs play the same schedule for the most part, with Conotton Valley appearing this winter. The Rockets will meet Bridgeport in the Toronto Showcase.

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