HANNIBAL - River boys' basketball coach Mark Romick is in the exact opposite position he was entering last season.
Following a Division IV sectional title in 2010-11, the veteran Pilots' court boss found himself with only one returning starter for the 2011-12 campaign.
No problem as River flowed to a second straight sectional crown behind a superb junior class.
Now, with those juniors being seniors, Romick has all kind of returnees - seven to be exact - back for another season on the hardwood.
"It's a different season with different expectations," the 15th year head coach said. "You set your goals according to what you have coming back and everything like that."
With that said, the Pilots should have some lofty goals in store for the 2012-13 season, which gets under way Saturday at Frontier.
In addition to capturing back-to-back sectional crowns, the Pilots also advanced to the OVAC/Wheeling Hospital Class AA championship game where they dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to a talented Linsly squad inside Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Building.
"Last year we kind of snuck up on some people," Romick admitted. "I told people that we were going to be pretty decent, and I knew we would be decent."
Leading the Pilots is a talented senior class that has really meshed together as a unit, on and off the court.
"This is a great class. Great kids who work really hard, and they like each other. That is really important. That's the biggest thing. There are no 'I's' on the team. No head cases. It's a joy to be around them."
Those seniors are Brett Price (6-3), Jordan Indermuhle (6-6), Cody Caldwell (6-2), Kam Brown (5-10), Chad Isaly (5-10), Matt Marconi (5-9) and Evan Eggleston (6-5).
Price is the team's leading scorer as he averaged 17 points a game last winter. He's a deadly outside shooter and a very good free throw shooter.
"Brett really honed his skills over the summer. He snuck up on some teams last year, but he's a known commodity this season," Romick allowed. "He's getting some interest from some different colleges. He has developed himself into a big-time scorer. He has a good all-around game and does a lot of little things well."
Indermuhle is the veteran of the squad as he will be starting his third season in the paint. He netted 11.4 points and just under 11 rebounds an outing last year.
Rounding out the varsity roster are junior Eric Dierkes (6-0), and sophomores Ryan Indermuhle (6-3) and Matt Gauding (6-4).
"Eric has looked really good in the early going," Romick noted. "He fits several roles for us off the bench.
"Matt and Ryan will see mostly junior varsity action, but can spell the big guys, as well."
Romick is a firm believer in the fact that to be the best, you've got to play the best. The Pilots' schedule has been vastly upgraded with the addition of Division IV perennial state powerhouse Berlin Hiland and D-2 Athens High.
"We always play them in the district tournament, so why not play them in the regular season," Romick said of the Berlin Hiland addition on Dec. 22. "They are a good team year-in and year-out. It's better to go out and play good teams if you want to be successful. I think we've definitely upgraded our schedule this year."
The Pilots and Athens will meet in an event in Marietta on Dec. 28.
As far as goals?
"We've talked about some goals and the kids have set some really high ones for themselves," Romick admitted. "We want to get back to the OVAC tournament, and take a shot at winning it, but it won't be easy because we've moved up to 3A this year. That will be a tough division with us, Magnolia, Fort Frye and Linsly, as well. Those are some good teams. It will be a dogfight.
"As far as the post-season, the kids want to win the sectional again and then set our sights on the district. They want to go further than last year."
Hiland ended last year's season in the district semifinals at Meadowbrook High School in Byesville.
Dec. 1 - at Frontier
Dec. 7 - at Monroe Central
Dec. 11 - Fort Frye
Dec. 14 - Caldwell
Dec. 18 - at Bridgeport
Dec. 22 - at Hiland
Dec. 26 - Buckeye Trail
Dec. 28 - at Marietta Tournament
Jan. 4 - at Shenandoah
Jan. 5 - at Magnolia
Jan. 8 - Bridgeport
Jan. 11 - at Shadyside
Jan. 12 - Frontier
Jan. 15 - Magnolia
Jan. 18 - at Caldwell
Jan. 25 - at Fort Frye
Jan. 26 - Shadyside
Jan. 29 - at Buckeye Trail
Feb. 1 - Shenandoah
Feb. 5 - Monroe Central