PITTSBURG — With the St. Mary’s High School football team on the verge of winning a state championship, multi-sport athletes will have to quickly shift their focus onto basketball following the conclusion of Saturday’s game.

The Panthers are no strangers to the state championship, as they are contenders nearly every season and expect this year to be no different.

“For us, the playoffs have always been the most exciting time of our season,” SMC head coach Wayne Cichon said. “Winning the sub-state playoffs and competing in the state tournament with a chance for a state title is a lot of fun. I was also excited to see how well our team competed throughout a very tough schedule in a league play where four teams had a chance to win the championship with about two games left.”

Although Colgan is running slightly behind schedule compared to other teams which may have already started practicing with a full team, Cichon believes his group is capable of overcoming the adversity.

“Early on, it will be difficult for us to get the players who are focusing on football ready in time, as we have only four days of practice before the first game,” Cichon said. “How long it takes for players to adapt from football to basketball is an individual thing. Some will be ready quicker than others. The difficult part will be putting in the game plan and then getting everyone enough reps so they can start playing as a team.”

Helping the transition process along will be a group of three seniors, who Cichon will be relying on to lead the team throughout the season.

“Every year, the challenge for our team is to replace valuable senior talent and leadership from the previous season to compete in league play and the playoffs,” Cichon said. “We have always believed that the seniors are the backbone of your team and this year will be no different.”

For the Panthers to have the depth Cichon is hoping for, the underclassmen will have to step up and be ready to contribute.

“With only three seniors returning, the underclassmen will play a major role,” Cichon said. “Depth is always critical for our program, as we want to play with a 10-man rotation if we have the depth. We feel that we will have the depth to do that at a high level this season.”

Winning never seems to come easy for any team in the CNC, but if Colgan’s rich history is any indication, winning multiple state championships in a single school year wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.

“For us to win a state title this season, we will have to play solid, team defense — both in the halfcourt and full court — along with controlling the boards. Those two things have always been the most important aspects for the teams that we have had win championships.”

 — Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at jbuckamneer@morningsun.net and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.