Time Is Now for Panthers

By SETH STASKEY

CONNORVILLE — These are good times for Buckeye Local.

Buckeye Local has been on a steady upward climb during the course of the last four years, but Tom Figurski realizes his team hasn’t come anywhere near its ceiling.

“We have set some lofty goals for ourselves,” Figurski said. “We want to compete well in the OVAC, qualify for the tournament, compete for the Buckeye 8 championship and also take it a step further and compete more in the sectional and district. I think we have the talent to accomplish those things, too.”

With a solid nucleus back, Figurski believes his team should be able to hit the ground running as the season.

“We want to be ready to compete at a high level from the start,” Figurski said.

The Panthers are coming off a 13-10 season, which Figurski considered a “successful, building block season.”

“We actually felt like we left some (wins) on the table,” Figurski said. “And finding a way to win those kinds of games that can go either way is something we’ve been stressing to the girls for this season.”

Figurski considered a success since he had four underclass starters, many of whom were getting their first taste of varsity basketball.

“We’re excited about who we have back, especially with them having another year under their belts,” Figurski admitted. “We have high expectations for this team.”

The lone starter that Buckeye Local must replace is Danielle Dvorcek. Other graduation losses included Lexi Swiger, Emily Fox, Shelby Gorlock and Logan Cunningham.

Though the Panthers have some experiencing, finding areas in which to improve hasn’t been a challenge. Actually, it took Figurski just a second to point out those areas, too. He even stats to back up his claim, which involved improving on the defensive end of the floor.

“We were 13-2 when we held teams to fewer than 50 points,” Figurski noted. “We were 0-8 when we allowed more than 50 points. So, our defense has to be better. If we want to reach the level we think we’re capable of, we have to defend better.”

Buckeye Local boasts two of the area’s top players in junior standout Emily Holzopfel (5-8), who is primed — barring something totally unforeseen — to go over the 1,000-career point mark this season. She’s at nearly 900 points already.

“Emily’s a talented all-around player,” Figurski noted. “She will do whatever it takes to get the job done. She’s an overall team leader, whether it’s offense, defense or just being able to control the game.”

She’ll be joined in the backcourt by senior Alaire Destifanes (5-7). She was a solid contributor last winter, but Figurski hopes and expects her to become even more “of an offensive player.”

“We have two talented individuals we can lean on offensively in Emily and Alaire,” Figurski said. “But, we’re still going to need some other girls to come out of the shadows and contribute some. The talent is there for us to be able to do that.”

Senior Maddie Gill (5-10) will provide a post presence, which Figurski is excited about.

Senior Angelina Piergallini (5-8) will also play on the interior and is expected to be one of the Panthers’ top rebounders.

A battle for the fifth starting spot has gone on basically throughout November. Carrie Dill (5-10), Brooklyn Miller (5-6), Rachel Moore (5-4), junior Audrey Sebring (5-7) and freshman Megan DaLusca (5-7) are all in the mix.

Figurski quickly pointed out that whoever doesn’t start will still see plenty of minutes as the Panthers hope to go deeper than they’ve gone in years past.

Two other seniors expecting to supply depth and minutes off the bench are Skylar Langford (5-4) and Lillie Windsheimer (5-10).

Their depth was affected with sophomore Brooke Roski being sidelined for the second straight season with a knee injury.

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