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Saying there’s a lot of optimism surrounding the Penn State York men’s basketball program isn't exactly earth shattering.

Since Parrish Petry took over the program before the 2008-09 season, the local Lions have typically been a force in the Penn State University Athletic Conference championship race.

So, entering his 10th season, it's no surprise that Petry and his team again have high expectations.

After all, PSY had a strong core of returning players — including United States Collegiate Athletic Association All-American Richard Grant — from last year’s squad that finished 12-4 in the PSUAC.

So optimism reigned at the York campus during the preseason.

That optimism seemed more than justified after PSY got off to a 3-0 start to the regular season heading into Thanksgiving break.

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Grant steps away: In basketball and life, however, things don’t always go as planned. Such was the case for Petry’s club when the 6-foot, 6-inch Grant, a Susquehannock High School graduate, decided to take some time off from basketball because personal concerns after the holiday.

Playing its first game without Grant Tuesday night, PSY just wasn't able to get over the hump against Penn State Wilkes-Barre at the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Community Center. Despite big games from Anthony Bennett Jr. (19 points), John Gillespie (14 points) and Justin Luton (13 points), York dropped a 78-73 decision.

Petry still confident: Petry, however, was not the slightest bit concerned after his team dropped its PSUAC opener.

“You know, despite the loss, I think that we really showed a lot tonight,” Petry said. “That team over in the other locker room, along with ourselves, are probably among the top two or three teams in the conference. So it was unfortunate that we had to play them in our (league) opener.”

Supporting Grant: Things were only made more difficult without Grant, who averaged 18 points and nine rebounds a season ago.

For his part, Petry understands the reasons that Grant stepped away from the team and is firmly behind his standout.

“He’s taking a step back, and we’ll let him look at things and just take a deep breath and clear his mind and go from there,” Petry said.

Looking for others to step up: With Grant sidelined indefinitely — although Petry is leaving open the door for his return before the season is over — the PSY coach is looking for a couple of his other big guys to step up.

That includes Derrick Hoffman, a Northeastern High School graduate who tallied five points and two boards in 16 minutes, and Chris Pitcher, who finished with six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes.

Petry is also hoping some other PSY players are able to step up to the challenge.

“We have a host of athletes on this roster,” he said. “So we can go a little bit smaller and be a little bit faster. We have a lot of options, and based on what I saw tonight, I think that we’ll be just fine.”

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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