Who? What ? When? Where? and Why? If it happens in the GOYA basketball league, expect to read about it at CosmoPhilly.com. With the new season just about ready to get under way, we received contact again from Mr. GOYA. Mr. GOYA will be writing a weekly round up of the game action from the GOYA basketball league and Cosmos Philly will be out snapping away and getting interviews when we can. Cosmos Philly welcomes its newest reporter and his GOYA REVIEW for the year.

Well it’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the leaves are beginning to turn, and for Greek Orthodox Christians throughout the Delaware Valley, the start of the 36th annual Delaware Valley Greek Orthodox Youth of America basketball season is upon us. This year 8 parishes from across the region will compete in both men’s and women’s basketball each Sunday. More importantly, families and friends will gather each Sunday to support the youth of their communities in what has become one of the cornerstone traditions of the GOYA year.

Cosmos Philly will be providing weekly recaps of the week’s action, but before the season begins, let’s take a look at the teams in what we hope will become a tradition in kicking off the league with the annual league preview.

Boy’s League

Boy’s League Annunciation Elkins Park – The beasts from the Northeast are back, and are looking to establish themselves in GOYA Basketball history as being one of only three teams to win four or more consecutive titles (St. Demetrios in 1980-1983 and St. Luke in 1999-2004, a 6-peat). The only thing that can stand in Coach Yanni Fisfis’s team’s way this year are cap and gowns, as the all-star trio of Laz Makrides, Stephen Zoubroulis, and George Armentani all graduated last spring. The run-and-gun offensive torch will be carried by younger brothers Jimmy Armentani (possibly one of the most potent offensive weapons the league has this year) and Christian Zoubroulis, who will lead a relatively-young cast of boys in their title defense. Elkins Park will kick off their season on October 12th, in a championship rematch with the boys from Holy Trinity Egg Harbor, in what will surely be one of the early must-see games this season.

Key Player: Jimmy Armentani
Players to Watch: Christian Zoubroulis, Dean Balis

Holy Trinity Egg Harbor – The boys in blue, fresh off of falling short in the finals for a second consecutive year, will also be looking to replace some key members of their roster, as the Big Bulgarian Vassil Stoimenov, and standout point guard Roman Papademetriou, both have moved on last spring. Coach Anthony Panetta will need to turn to a young core of players, led by senior slashing guard Alex Malaspina, in the hopes of making another run at their first ever league championship. The big question will be how to replace the irreplaceable defensive presence that helped frame this team’s success over the past two years? Holy Trinity will face a tough start to their schedule, opening with St. Demetrios of Upper Darby this Sunday before heading to face the defending champions in Upper Darby the following week.

Key Player: Alex Malaspina
Players to Watch: Athanasios Mertis, George Arsenis

Evangelismos Philadelphia – Here come the big boys from the Boulevard once again, only with the loss of last year’s seniors Elias Apsis, Dylan Kanter, and Konstantinos Nakos, Coach Jim Contoudis’s boys are not quite as big as they used to be. Don’t let that fool you though this lineup still boasts one of the better frontcourts in the league, anchored by premiere big man Antonio Nakos. I also look for guard Vasili Mantsos to have a big year, as he almost led his team to a stunning upset victory over Holy Trinity in last year’s semi-final game. The boys from Bustleton have the size and skill to contend for a title this year once again, and they will get the opportunity to prove it early, opening their season against the defending champions from Elkins Park on October 19th.

Key Players: Antonio Nakos, Vasili Mantsos
Player to Watch: Dimitri Cuni

St. George Media – One of Mr. GOYA’s sleeper teams this year comes out of St. George Media, where new head coach John Aivazoglou will inherit a talent-laden team led by a power combo in the front court of Greg Daskalopoulos and Christos Moscharis. Gone to graduation is the versatile big man Phillip Kemmerer, as well as slashing point guard Thomas Kopatsis, but I look for up and coming guard Panos Skoutelas to be able to shoulder the guard load this year. This team’s combination of size, experience, and skill, is a perfect recipe for a team looking to make a run at their first league championship since 1998. St. George will open their season on October 12th in Wilmington versus Holy Trinity.

(As a quick footnote Mr. GOYA would like to recognize the effort and dedication of Jim Kemmerer, who coached the boys team for the past 7 years and who retired this offseason. As one of the truly good guys in the league we wish him all the best going forward and hope to see him at games as a fan this season.)

Key Players: Greg Daskalopoulos, Christos Moscharis
Player to Watch: Panos Skoutelas

St. Demetrios Upper Darby – Another team on the rise this year comes out of the heart of the Del Val GOYA landscape in Upper Darby, where Coach George Pagiotas and Steph Karas lead a senior-laden team into the league this year in the hopes of getting back into championship contention. Led by standout guard Anastasios Gjedede, I like this team’s chances to utilize their run-and-gun style to catapult up the standings this year. In addition to veteran leadership, this team also boasts an influx of incoming talent from the B-league last year, led by Chris Dawson. All in all this team certainly has what it takes to be playing in the final game; their road begins with a trip down to Egg Harbor this Sunday.

Key Player: Anastasios Gjedede
Players to Watch: Chris Zografakis, Chris Dawson

St. Thomas Cherry Hill – Last year, in a league dominated by big men, Cherry Hill Center John Nutaitis held his own in leading St. Thomas into the playoffs and nearly capturing a huge upset victory over Evangelismos in the quarterfinals. This year the league has gotten a bit shorter, and Nutaitis remains, which spells big trouble for any team going against them. Coach John Gratsias will look to continuously exploit his height advantage (helped by returning big men Bobby Zografos as well as elite perimeter defender Andrew Karolidis) in the hopes of making a run into the GOYA Final Four and beyond. This team certainly has the talent to contend for a title, it will just be a matter of bringing it all together. They will get to open their season with a tough road test against St. Luke’s Broomall this Sunday.

Key Player: John Nutaitis
Players to Watch: Andrew Karolidis, Bobby Zografos

St. Luke Broomall – It was a tough year last year for the boys from Broomall, missing out on the playoffs based on point differential is never easy. Coach Chris Nikolos and his boys look to rebound this year, but they will do so without their team leader Jason Demetris who graduated last season. Fortunately for the boys in red this team is blessed with a lot of young talent, led by Dean Pritchard and Evan and Chris Palmieri, these young guns could look to make a lot of noise as one of the league’s up and coming teams. St. Luke’s kicks off their season on opening weekend at home against St. Thomas Cherry Hill, in a game that could actually have serious playoff implications from day one.

Key Player: Dean Pritchard
Players to Watch: Chris Palmieri, Evan Palmieri

Holy Trinity Wilmington – Finally our league is whole once again! After a long absence, Holy Trinity Wilmington, led by Coach George Rassias, is back, and looking to hit the ground running in a highly competitive league. While Mr. GOYA hasn’t seen this team in action in recent years, a little investigative work found that this team has been highly competitive in tournament play over the past two seasons, placing third in their last two host tournaments, and giving perennial league power (and sister-in-name church) Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor a tough game in both semi-final contests. If you use that as the bar to gauge them, then it is fair to say this team could be a championship contender from day one. Regardless I think I speak for all the members of the Delaware Valley in wishing them a welcome back home to the league. Holy Trinity will kick off their season on October 12th against cross-border parish St. George Media.

Girl’s League

Holy Trinity Egg Harbor – Well the boy’s league isn’t the only league boasting a team that could be flirting with the term “dynasty”, as the girls from the shore, led by Coach George Efstatos, are primed to make a run at a third consecutive championship, a feat that has not been performed since the records show St. Thomas of Cherry Hill won the first five championships in league history. There is no secret to this team’s success: as reigning-Co-League MVP Despina Lianidis goes, so does her team, as she anchors one of the fastest teams in the league. Holy Trinity is also fortunate to have talent across the board, with young talents Gina Nassar, Aggie Potiris, and Samantha Rhodes rounding out one of the strongest lineups in the league. Holy Trinity begins their title defense on opening weekend at home against St. Demetrios Upper Darby.

Key Player: Despina Lianidis
Players to Watch: Gina Nassar, Samantha Rhodes, Aggie Potiris

St. Thomas Cherry Hill – If there was an award for most improved team last year, the girls from St. Thomas would have taken it in a landslide. Coach John Pratzinakis’s girls, led by returning guard Maria Kokolis, won more games last season (8) than their previous two seasons combined! A perfect blend of size and speed, this team skyrocketed to the top of last year’s standings before falling in the finals to Egg Harbor. With Kokolis returning alongside defensive standout Maria Ana Pantelous, this team looks primed to make a run at their first league championship since 2001. St. Thomas begins their journey on opening weekend against St. Luke in Broomall.

Key Player: Maria Kokolis
Players to Watch: Maria Ana Pantelous, Janelle Canavos

Evangelismos Philadelphia – Another team primed for a big run this year comes from the Boulevard, as Jim Contoudis’s girls, led by all-star guard Francesca Bogiatzis, return with a lineup that can give any team in the league a run for their money. Returning most likely the tallest lineup in the league, the girls from Evangelismos will look to continue their trend of solid rebounding and interior offense and defense. Star senior Marianna Zisis has graduated, but a returning cast led by Bogiatzis, Alexis Nakos, and Katerina Nanos, has all the tools necessary to aid Evangelismos in their quest for their church’s first girl’s championship. The girls from Evangelismos have a long wait before the start of their season, as they take off against St. Luke’s Broomall on Sunday, November 2nd.

Key Player: Francesca Bogiatzis
Players to Watch: Alexis Nakos, Katerina Nanos

St. George Media – Coach Alex Terris has to be proud of the effort his girls turned in last year. Rebounding from a difficult start to their schedule, the St. George girls rallied all the way back to a 4-4 record, a final four appearance, and nearly a stunning double-overtime victory against St. Thomas of Cherry Hill. Callie Terris has graduated, which is a huge loss for this team, but the core remains intact, led by reigning Co-MVP Corina Bourantas, as well as her younger sister Christina who showed great promise last season, and Alexi Terris who looks primed to follow in her big sister’s footsteps this season. St. George certainly has the talent and the experience to make a deep run in the playoffs this season. They will take their first steps this year on October 12th against Holy Trinity of Wilmington.

Key Player: Corina Bourantas
Players to Watch: Christina Bourantas, Alexi Terris

St. Demetrios Upper Darby – Another team with a fine blend of size, skill, and experience, comes out of Upper Darby, as the girls from St. Demetrios, led by the coaching trifecta of Amelia Economou, Olga Zografakis, and Yianni Mylonas, look to get back into final four and championship contention this season. Standout forward Evana Mortezavi has graduated, but this team still has plenty of young talent, led by Irene Evangelopoulos, whom I believe is the tallest girl in the league. Stephanie Paras will lead the backcourt duties for a team that Mr. GOYA thinks has sleeper potential this season. They certainly will get their chance to prove it on opening weekend, as they take on the defending champs from Egg Harbor on the road to start their season.

Key Player: Irene Evangelopoulos
Players to Watch: Stephanie Paras

St. Luke Broomall – Coach Chris Nikolos will look to get his girls, two years removed from a championship appearance, back into title contention this season. Looking at this roster he certainly has the talent to do so, led by Maria Raptis and Zoe Nikolos, this team will look to push the tempo behind a lineup of skilled speedsters this season. Alongside a load of young talent, including Eleni Navrosidis, I also can see this team shooting up the standings and giving some of last year’s title contenders a run for their money this season. The girls from St. Luke will get to open their season at home on opening weekend with a tough test against St. Thomas Cherry Hill.

Key Player: Maria Raptis, Zoe Nikolos
Players to Watch: Eleni Navrosidis

Holy Trinity Wilmington – Like their church brothers, the girls from Wilmington are back! Also like their brothers, Mr. GOYA knows very little about them, aside from the fact that they will be led into action by Coach Christos Kotanidis (sorry girls!). One thing Mr. GOYA does know is that these girls have also been highly competitive in tournament play throughout the region over the past few years, and given that level of talent down in the DC-Metro area, that can only bode well for this team’s chances this season. Mr. GOYA looks forward to seeing them back in league action for their opener on October 12th against St. George Media.

Be sure to check back with Cosmos Philly for weekly recaps of league action. Best of luck to all our young boys and girls this season!