Lady Panthers gear up for basketball


By Lance Catchings

The Lady Panther basketball team is gearing up for the 2018-2019 season.

After going 33-4 last year and ending the season in the regional semifinals, the Lady Panthers graduated 10 seniors and all five starters. Practices have already begun, and new players are stepping up to fill the open roles.

Saturday, the Lady Panthers were part of a four-team scrimmage in Georgetown. Head Coach Chris Lange said it will be a new team, but the high expectations will remain.

“We scrimmaged Oct. 27 in Georgetown,” he said. “We played Westwood, Rouse and East View. We did well and not too bad for starting with a new group of kids. Going out in the first scrimmage we had no idea what it would look like, but we played well. We have four returners, but mostly a new group of players.”

Last season, Lange often ran a three-set rotation so there are players that have some experience, but even those will be in new roles.

“We played a lot of girls last year and even the four returners that I have this year had some playing time last season,” he said. “The difference is last year they were in different roles. This year, they are in roles of leadership where they must step on the court and be ready to play. It is a different type of role and expectation for them.

“When you graduate 10 kids you are pretty much starting over and that’s what we’re doing. We have a lot of young kids on the team this year. We have a freshman that has moved up to varsity day one and a couple of sophomores as well. Last year does not have a lot of bearing on this year because everyone has new roles. It is good that they got some playing time last season, but that is only four out of your potential 12 kids that have experience.”

The Lady Panthers return four seniors and one underclassman with varsity experience this season. Point guard Gracie Whitten, small forward Carissa Vickers, shooting guards Carissa Garza and Ireland Sargent return as seniors. Sophomore point guard Jessica Holiday also returns as well as junior Ashley Nelson who saw playing time. Lange will be dependent on his seniors to lead them into this new season.

“The expectations of the seniors are leadership in practice and showing the younger ones what is expected,” he said. “We have to minimize the messing around that shows up from time to time. They must show the others how they are supposed to act during practices and game time. They have all done a really good job of that for the most part.”

Due to the big change in personnel, Lange said schemes offensively and defensively will be adjusted. What will remain the same is the expectation of strong effort and intensity at practice.

“When you graduate the players we did, the expectation for my job does not change,” he said. “The offense must change a bit as we adapt to the new personnel that we have. Our expectations and results we want to get accomplished does not change. The expectation is to still go out and take care of business and show up and play hard. We want to put ourselves in a good position to play district games and make a run in the playoffs.”

Liberty Hill made the move to Region IV 27-4A this season. In district play the Lady Panthers will face Burnet, Eastside Memorial, Lampasas, Salado and Taylor. Lange believes that the district will be a close race. Burnet finished second to Liberty Hill last season and is sure to be seeking a shot at the district title.

“I think everything in our district this season has gotten closer,” he said. “Lampasas looks really strong and they have some nice returners coming back again. They will have a strong inside presence. Burnet got two move-ins which adds a couple more shooters and a strong point guard. They also have some solid returners as well. Burnet and Lampasas will be two of the top teams in the district and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Our expectation is to go in and win district and not lose a game.”

As has been the case in the past, the Lady Panthers will have no cake walk of a pre-district schedule. With tournament stops at the Austin Bowie Be-YOU-tiful, Jack Frost Invitational and Lake Travis Christmas Tournament the team will get plenty of chances to work out the kinks against stiff competition.

“We have a little bit of time,” he said “In our pre-season we will have some very tough competition. We will take some lumps along the way, but the goal is to learn how to play with each other. This early you’re trying to figure out what everyone can do because we have a lot of girls with similar type of size. We must figure out how to fit the right pieces together and get the right match ups with each other.”

On Tuesday, the Lady Panthers scrimmaged in Leander against Midway and Temple. They open the regular season Friday night on the road against Leander Glenn and travel to Belton Nov. 6. Lange said both teams will be a good measuring stick to see where they are.

“We beat both of these teams last year,” he said. “This year we are a different team, so I hope to see us compete and give a great effort. If we can come out and compete together as a group, we can have a chance. This is a completely new group with no returning starters. That will not be an excuse for not winning and doing what we need to do. We must maintain our expectations and whatever does not go our way we will work on.”

The Lady Panthers have their first home game set for Nov. 19 against Vista Ridge at 6:30 p.m.