LEWISBURG — As Jessica Spitler enters her sixth season as head coach of Tri-County North’s girls’ basketball team she knows she’s facing a rebuilding year and will need to be patient.
The Panthers only have nine players in the high school program and none are seniors.
They are coming off a season in which they went 1-22 overall and 1-11 in the Cross County Conference.
“This year is going to be a huge rebuilding year and we know that,” Spitler said. “We well be working on skills, working on back to the basics. Getting some of those skills down that we haven’t had in the past. Looking for people in new positions.
With no seniors on the roster Spitler is looking for a few players to step into leadership roles.
“We’re looking for that leadership role. I would say a couple of girls have stepped up in regards to that. But we’re still looking for that actual for sure leader,” she said.
Returning are starters Maddy Flory and Lexi Delong. Both are juniors and will most likely fill the roles of team leaders.
Delong will man the post, while Flory run the point.
“Those are the roles they had last year,” Spitler said. “Two totally different personalities. One is more of my scrapper, gives you attitude, pushes you. My other one is more my let’s kind of have fun,” Spitler said.
Sophomores Makenzie Lykins, Jenna Klingenbarger and Kelli Cook also return for their second season at the varsity level.
Sophomore Mackenzie Bacher, who saw varsity time as a freshman, is expected to miss a majority, if not all, of the season due to an injury.
Rounding out the roster are freshmen, Rilee Terry, Sierra Baker and Madison Terry.
Spitler said she sees a bright future for the program
“We have a good junior high program that’s pretty strong.
Big numbers to come, so this is our rebuilding year. This year is kind of building the foundation, hopefully, for the next three years,” she said.
Spitler said she sees several teams in the hunt for the CCC title, led by pre-season state No. 1 ranked Tri-Village.
“Tri-Village is up there. Franklin-Monroe will be one of the top teams. I do think we will compete against some of the bottom of the league,” she said.
With just eight players, staying healthy will be key.
“Right now, we’re just trying to keep a healthy team. I’m hoping we finish with eight strong at the end of the year. We do a conditioning program that so far seems to work,” Spitler said.
The team will also will look to make an impact on the community off the court.
“This year one of the things I told them our goal is not just on the court. They have each been asked to pick a community service project, something we are going to do as a team,” Spitler said. “We may not necessarily leave our mark on the court this year with our record, but what I’m hoping is that we’ll be impacting people in our school and in our town just by getting out there.”
Spitler is encouraging community support for her young team.
“Right now, we just need community support and parent support know this is going to be tough season,” she said. “But we need their support.”
Since the Panthers will not field a junior varsity team this year all home game during the week will being at 6 p.m. Away games starting times will be determined by the host school.
The Panthers opened the season by hosting the CCC/SWBL Tip-Off tournament on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22-23, featuring Carlisle and Northridge of the SWBL and Twin Valley South of the CCC.
North lost to Northridge on Friday and played Carlisle on Saturday.
North was also scheduled to travel to Covington on Tuesday, Nov. 26. The Panthers will then host Dixie on Saturday, Nov. 30.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH