With 10 schools classified as 2A in District 3 boys’ basketball and only four spots available for the playoffs, simply qualifying is an accomplishment.

Last season, Fairfield posted a 10-7 record and still found itself on the outside looking in.

“I can’t understand how only four teams get in when there’s ten schools in the class, not with there being 11 schools in 3A and eight of them getting in,” Fairfield head coach Andy Winebrenner said. “We could win 14 or 15 games this season and still not get in. We have to win every game that we should win and probably win a couple that maybe we shouldn’t. We really can’t afford any bad losses.”

The Knights return a roster heavy on experience with three starters back from a season ago and two of them heading into their fourth year as starters.

Seniors Eric Ball (12.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Peyton Stadler (8.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.4 apg), along with classmate Griffin Tabler (3.9 ppg) are all returning members of the starting five.

Winebrenner sees a quartet of players in the running for the other two starting spots in seniors Will Myers, Jake Myers and Cody Valentine, and junior Andrew Koons.

“We’ve been playing together as a group since we were ten years old,” Ball said. “It’s strange to think that this will be our last year playing together, but it is. So we want to make it the best year that we can.”

The inside presence of the graduated Trey Griffith (4.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Neal Beaudette will be missed, but there’s one player that Winebrenner didn’t anticipate having to replace.

Junior Nik Nordberg (15.9 ppg, 42 percent on 3PT) transferred to Scotland Campus. The sweet-shooting lefty was a YAIAA-3 first team selection by the coaches in 2020-21.

“We’re not going to replace Nik,” Winebrenner said. “His shooting and ball handling are too good for one guy to replace. We’re going to need a team effort to make up for everything that he did.”

Stadler, who led the team in assists last season, is slated to pick up additional ball-handling responsibilities.

“Peyton is a good ball handler and very physically strong,” Winebrenner said. “He gets to the basket well and posts up well. His strength makes him tough to guard.”

Ball added, “We’re gonna try to attack the basket more and get to the free throw line more. We want to play physical and use our size advantage, because we’re bigger than most of our opponents.”

Winebrenner and fellow 2002 grad Mark Armstrong are the last two additions to the school’s 1,000 point club, but Ball has a chance to grow that membership to eight. He enters the season needing 332 points to reach the milestone.

“Eric has started for us since he was a freshman,” Winebrenner said. “He’s much more level-headed and a much better leader than he was when he first got here. He’s really matured as a person and a player during his time in our program.”

Ball said of the possibility of scoring 1,000 points: “I’m not worried about it. When I worry about scoring points, I put more pressure on myself and play worse. I’m looking to win games more than anything else. I’d rather have the game-winning assist in a win than score 30 points in a loss.”

The Knights posted an 8-6 mark in YAIAA-3 play last season, good for fourth in the division and they figure to compete for the division crown this winter.

“I think the division is open for us to win games,” Winebrenner said. “Littlestown and York Catholic are probably the favorites. Delone should be better and Bermudian is always a tough matchup with their style of play.”

Gang Green kicks off the 2021-22 campaign against a fellow contender for a spot in the 2A field in Millersburg in the Harrisburg Christian Tip-Off Tournament on Dec 10 at 7 p.m. The Indians posted a 14-6 record last season.

Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas

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