Lady Panthers looking to stay on top for upcoming basketball season
The Middle Park Panthers Women’s Basketball Team will gather today for their first practice of the season, looking to build off of last year’s impressive 16-7 campaign that was cut short in the first round of the state playoffs.
Five seniors graduated from the team after last season, including the Panther’s two top scorers and rebounders Haley Weimer and Claire Luque, leaving Head Coach Mike Reigan with the difficult task of replacing the teams’ most dynamic players.
“We lost five seniors and they were all contributors, and all started at one time or another during the year,” said Reigan. “So it’s going to be a challenge this year. We’ve got some players coming back that played quite a bit of varsity ball last year. So we’ve got a good core and we’ve got a ton of players.”
Reigan said an unprecedented 39 players signed up for the team this year, including a number of varsity veterans. Seniors Kiera Barr and Bailey Martin will return a year after posting the third and fourth highest points and rebounds per game last season respectively. But Reigan said the shear number of athletes coming to play would create a competitive atmosphere on the team, where players will have to fight to earn and keep their spots.
“One of those things I’ve already told the girls is with this many players there will be quite a bit of competition,” he said. “So if a girl decides to take a night off so to speak, or has a couple practices where they don’t give full effort there’s going to be somebody there to take that position.”
Reigan said he intends to roster 10 players on the varsity team to start the season, and add a couple to the roster as the season moves on.
With the Panthers’ best shooters moving on, Middle Park will refocus their efforts early in the season to defense to carry them while they try and develop young, offensive talent.
“We’ve always emphasized defense, but we may have to count on our defense a lot more to carry us since we may not have the shooters developed early on in the season,” he said. “So we’re not going to change anything, we’re just going to work the heck out of it. Every coach has options and we’ll see which options are the best.”
Reigan lauded his coaching staff and their ability to transform the team over the course of a season. He said that while the team may struggle early on while they find their identity, he expects them to be in fighting form by the time league games start picking up after Christmas.
The Panthers will take on the Summit Tigers in their first game of the season on Nov. 30.
“I think we have a good program here, and I think we have a lot of support from the people, the town and obviously the school,” said Reigan. “And so we’re just going to go out, work hard and see what happens.”
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