Seven new players and a new coach have the defending B.C. senior AA girls silver medalist VSS Panthers stoked about the hoops season.
They are young – five of the newbies are in Grade 10 – fit and full of energy going into this morning’s 10:30 tilt against the George Elliot Coyotes of Lake Country in the PIT Classic.
Towering Karley Fugel, who plays post, joins the Megans – Prentice and Johnston – as the only returnees. The 6-foot-1 Fugel likes the Cats’ makeup under longtime head coach Lonny Mazaruk and rookie assistant John Keeley.
“We have a lot of new blood which is good because teams can’t play us a certain way anymore,” said Fugel. “We’re an unknown team again. A lot of the new girls are really fast and they have a passion for the game. John brings a real competitive edge to the team.”
Fugel, who plans to study chemical engineering next fall, is in her third year with the senior Panthers. Her sister, Kristy, is one of the Grade 10 freshmen.
“My goal is to step up my rebounds and be a positive leader by example. I just wanna give them the same great experience I had when I was in Grade 10. The older girls were so kind and made me feel welcome, even when we were talking on the bench. I will push them to be their best by going hard in practice.”
Prentice, also interested in engineering, is defensively sound. She expects the Cats to get stronger by the week.
“We’ve been working on good defensive stuff, but he’s (Mazaruk) talking about the process so he adds on plays every practice. I’m not a huge shouter so I try and lead by example. Last year, I was more of a defensive player, but I’d like to score more this year.”
Johnston may be the smallest Panther, but she can hit the light switch and land in bed before it gets dark. The roadrunner, who plans to be a nurse, and younger sister Natalie, well represented VSS at the cross-country provincials.
“I’m a really strong defensive player, but I’m working on my offence by doing lots of shooting and lay-ups. I’m super excited for the year because we have so much super young talent. John Keeley is really good on skill work and Maz is great at strategy so it’s a good mix.”
Keeley, whose daughter Allie is a Panther grad, takes over from Bobby Mitchell, now an assistant with the UBC Okanagan Heat women.
Dayce Knopf is the lone Grade 11 VSS student on roster. Jordon Korol attends Grade 11 at Kal and has joined the Cats since the Lakers don’t have a team this year. The Grade 10s are: Katie MacGillivray, Jessica Melvin, Jordyn Cullum and Anna Rice.
Karley Fugel was a force with 18 points and 13 rebounds as the Panthers stuffed Pleasant Valley 72-42 in North Zone play Wednesday night. Kristy Fugel supplied 10 points and six boards, while Korol rung up nine points and seven rebounds.
“We made lots of mistakes but being our first game on only four practices, our girls showed that we are capable of playing at a very high level again this season,” said Mazaruk.
The PIT Classic features the defending B.C. senior A champion Immaculata Mustangs of Kelowna and the always-tough AA Nechako Valley Viqueens of Vanderhoof.
Added Mazurak: “The tournament will help rank the AA teams early in the season for this year’s valley. Fulton and VSS will represent Vernon and teams from Princeton all the way up to Kamloops will be in atttendance as well.”
The Rutland Voodoos replaced Kal and meet Princess Margaret Mustangs at 10:30 a.m., at Kal.
The Maroons take on the Mustangs at 12:20 p.m. at Kal, while the Mt. Boucherie Bears of West Kelowna tangle with the Okanagan Mission Huskies of Kelowna at 12:20, at the Panther Pit.
Games go until 7:30 tonight and resume Saturday at 9 a.m. at both gyms. The final goes Saturday night, at 5:45, at VSS.
In senior boys action Tuesday night, John Garvie flushed 27 points and Mitchell Pepper drained 26 as VSS iced the PVSS Saints 101-42.
Shelby Hartwig grabbed 13 rebounds for the Cats, while Ben Kornelsen fired eight points for the Saints. The AAA Panthers open the Okanagan Mission tournament tonight.