PITTSBURG — Winning in the regular season hasn’t been a problem in recent history for the consistent St. Mary’s-Colgan High School girls’ basketball team, but the Panthers hope to make the jump from good to great this upcoming year.
The Panthers have finished with winning records in five out six seasons under the direction of head coach Abby Farabi and are looking to add one more to the tally in the new campaign en route to claiming a state title.
“We're really excited to get this season under way,” Farabi said. “We had a lot of success last season, especially after the break. We graduated two girls, who we will miss — especially on the defensive side. On the plus side, we return seven or eight girls with a lot of varsity experience and we hope to build around them. We plan to be pretty deep this year and do a few different things on both ends of the court.”
Winning in the CNC is easier said than done, as the competitive league is home to the defending state champs in Girard.
“The CNC is a dog fight day in and day out,” Farabi said. “I really think it’s going to be pretty balanced this year. There won't be a dominant team like there has been and every team will be competitive. We will have to show up and execute our plan each game. We will have to adjust each game, and how we are able to do that will dictate our success.”
Although the Trojans have been the team to beat for the past few seasons, the Panthers return a solid group of upperclassmen ready to dethrone the champs.
“Our three seniors will be a huge factor in our success,” Farabi said. “They all have a lot of varsity experience and are looking to build on the past. They’re all three great girls and great role models for the younger kids. We also have seven juniors, who have a lot of experience and will play a huge role in our success. We have a nice balance of kids, so leadership is going to have to come from all of them at some point this year.”
Leading the way for SMC will be a few upperclassmen who will be showing underclassmen the ropes.
“Marci VanBecelaere is one of the hardest working kids I have ever coached,” Farabi said. “We will rely on her a lot for leadership and on the defensive end. She's a great athlete and gives 100 percent every game and practice.”
“Synclaire Borum has been a great shooter for us over the career,” Farabi said. “She's also improved a lot on getting to the basket. She will also be huge for us on the offensive end. Megan Smith is a gritty player who is willing to give her all in order to be successful. We will need her on the defensive side and to pick up some offensive boards for us.”
Despite being the star players on the team, Farabi said the upperclassmen are careful to not let egos get in the way of success.
“I think collectively, how well they play together and work hard for one another will be a huge strength for us,” she said. “They don't care who gets the credit, just as long as the job gets done. Also, our experience will be a huge factor for us. We'll need to really get things figured out on the defensive end — especially on the glass — in order for us to have success early. Everyone has to buy in, be aggressive and trust one another on the defensive end. I'm not too concerned on the offensive end, because we have a lot of kids capable of scoring and I truly believe the offense will come with the defense.”
The road to a state championship won’t be easy, but the Panthers are focusing on winning each day and enjoying the moment.
“In order for us to make it to the state tournament and have success, we have to relax and just play,” Farabi said. “The biggest thing for us at this point is getting past the first round. We need to realize the importance of each game and have a pretty good record going into the postseason. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to have fun, get better each game and work together.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamnner.