Greg Molnar, the new head coach of the Saegertown boys basketball team, wants to thank whoever set up his team’s non-league schedule before he got there.

“I think that our preseason schedule is exactly what we needed,” said Molnar, who is taking over the Panthers program for former head coach Billy Noel.

“We scrimmaged Franklin. We scrimmaged General McLane. We got a chance to refine ourselves. And now we’ll see where we stand against two good teams this weekend.”

Saegertown does indeed host a pretty nice slate of teams during this weekend’s Saegertown Tip-off Tournament. Perennial Erie County powers North East and Girard open the event today at 6 p.m. Then Saegertown, in its first game since going 15-9 a year ago, takes on Triple-A club Central Tech at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Central and North East play at 6 p.m. Then Saegertown and Girard do battle at 7:30.

“It’s a ‘classic’ field,” Molnar said. “From what I understand, Girard and Central are in the same region and they didn’t want to play each other three times in the same season.”

That’s just as well for Molnar and the Panthers.

“I’m real happy with the tournament field,” he said. “For us, it’s a great opportunity. We’re expecting to see two different kinds of basketball. We’re expecting a race horse in Central, and then a very disciplined team in Girard.”

Central went 8-14 last year and are expected to bring a big, athletic squad. Meanwhile Girard was 23-6 a year ago after advancing to the second round of the PIAA playoffs where it lost to eventual state champion Jeannette 67-35.

Girard has jumped to Triple-A ball this season.

Saegertown could be missing a couple key players for this weekend’s action. Swingman Kyle Beatty is questionable, still dealing from an injury suffered during the preseason. And guard Tyler Mondi is doubtful. He’s recovering from a recent appendectomy.

“Other than that, we’re in pretty good shape right now,” Molnar said. “We should be ready to go when Cochranton visits us next Tuesday.”

The Sailors’ solid slate

Lakeview is also tipping off the season with a pretty strong group of teams.

In the first game of the Sailors’ tournament, beginning at 6:30 p.m., Quad-A program George Junior Republic squares off with Single-A powerhouse Kennedy Catholic. Afterwards, the Sailors face District 9 opponent Moniteau.

“This is the best competition we’ve had at one of these things, and this is our eighth annual,” said Lakeview coach Gary Burke. “And we had a tough time getting teams in this year.”

Lakeview, like other area schools, had a tough time filling out its tournament field after the PIAA reduced the basketball season to 22 games.

“We’ve had Seneca in year’s past and they were great competitors,” Burke said. “But they simply didn’t have the room for us. They wanted to stay with their non-conference schedule.”

So the Sailors had to scramble to fill the void. And they ended up with an exciting group of four.

George Junior was 5-16 with a challenging schedule a year ago. The program usually goes through some heavy turnover so no one is quite sure what the Tigers will look like this year.

“I hear that their athleticism is going to win them a lot of games,” said Burke.

Meanwhile, Kennedy is still Kennedy. The Golden Eagles were 20-10 last year, advancing all the way to the Class A West Finals where they lost to eventual state champ Serra Catholic 78-76 in overtime.

The Eagles are also returning first-team all-state guard Kyle Randall, who averaged over 26 points a game last season.

Moniteau is coming out of Region 9 where it was 8-16 a year ago.

Lakeview was also 8-16 last year.

“We could go 0-2 in this tournament and still come out of it a better team,” said Burke. “This is the way to get ready for a long, tough season; plying competition like this.”

Elsewhere in the area

Cambridge Springs is holding the annual Bob Englebert Tip-off tonight. Greenville and Union City face off at 6:30 p.m. Then the host Blue Devils face Northwestern at 8 p.m.

Cochranton brings a pretty good group of small schools to the Birdcage this weekend. Today’s action begins with Maplewood taking on Reynolds at 5:30 p.m. Then Cochranton and Iroquois go at it at 8:30 p.m.

Down in Jamestown, Grand River Academy faces Region 2 favorite Wilmington at 6 p.m. today in the first game of the David Veverka Tournament. Then Jamestown wades into the pool against Tidioute Charter at 7:30 p.m.

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