Best, McHugh to Lead Buckeye Local
By RICK DeLUCA
For the News-Register
CONNORVILLE — Buckeye Local’s Chris Heaton has already proved himself to be one of the bright young coaches in the Ohio Valley and one that prides himself on working hard and getting the same from his players.
Two years ago, the Panthers finished at 6-17, but had six of those losses haunting them for the closeness and late minutes of the defeats. That memory may have bolstered Heaton’s team’s approach to last season.
Steady play a year ago saw a big turnaround as the Panthers rebounded with an 11-7 record.
Graduation losses don’t seem to alter Heaton’s approach. Last year’s team came in missing five players that were heavy contributors through graduation. This season, the Panthers will start without four players that proved the bulk of the scoring a season ago.
In May, the Panthers graduated Mason Brown, Cameron Grabits, Jake Mayle and Jacob Zanes. Mayle and Brown both averaged over 15 points per outing.
“We lost 39 points a game and close to four years experience in that group and that’s a lot to recoup,” Heaton said about the four players that graduated. “But I do have a lot of confidence in some of the experienced players I have back and how well the others develop from their time on the court this year will mean a lot.”
Heaton’s squad includes the return of two starters. The duo is talented 5-11 guard Cameron Best who scored 6.2 points a game last season and handed out 2.8 assists a night and 6-2 Ethan McHugh a fearless forward that added 6.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game a year ago. McHugh will be strong on the boards and Best will provide a very good ball handler.
“We could be pretty balanced this season if we can get the right players contributing offensively. We do have four or five players capable of giving us 15-16 points a night. That will be one of our strengths,” Heaton pointed out.
“Our biggest question marks right now lie in our defense,” the Panther coach continued. “It will take some time to get better on the defensive end. I really don’t know what to expect. We just have to, maybe go back to basics and let time build the experience.”
“They are good kids,” the fourth year Panther mentor said. “They just haven’t had the opportunity to experience a lot of things. These kids work in the classroom and work at practice and that will pay off for them.”
With the varsity, Heaton has six seniors. Aside from Best and McHugh, the Panthers 6-0 guard Hunter Roush, 6-0 forward Anthony Deitch and the return of the Darrah Brothers — Luke, a 6-4 forward, and Hunter, a 6-6 center. Luke is still nursing a football injury.
Five juniors will fill spots on the varsity and play key roles. That group includes 5-11 guard Caiden McCutcheon, 6-1 guard-forward Braydon Walker, 6-1 guard Dayne Carter, 5-11 guard Ryan Deitch and 6-3 forward Isaac Chandler.
Heaton will have a pair of sophomores, 6-5 forward-center Gavyn Romanyak and 6-2 guard-forward Ryder Kindberg-Colabelli, both of whom will be counted on to play important roles with the varsity squad.
Buckeye’s jayvee unit will include a group of sophomores and freshmen. The sophomore group has 5-9 guard Anthony Parrish, 6-1 guard AJ Devore, 5-11 forward Carson Basich, 5-9 guard Preston Lindsay, 6-0 guard Cooper Grabits and 6-1 forward Jacob Berry.
Freshmen expected to see plenty of playing time with the jayvee squad are 6-0 guard David Palmer, 5-7 guard Haydn Boyce, 6-3 forward Andrew Jones, 6-0 guard-forward Marek Hickman and 6-3 forward James Hess.
Heaton returns a familiar staff in former Panther head coach, Joe Soos, Cameron McKim on the varsity bench, Jimmy Colabelli (8th grade) and Stevie Roberts (7th) with the junior high.
For the upcoming season, Buckeye will see a couple changes in its schedule with the addition of two contests with Shadyside and the elimination of one game with Edison.