As we inch closer to the potential beginning of the 2021 basketball season, D9Sports.com took some time to catch up with area coaches to ask them some questions about the upcoming season. The Keystone Panthers’ girls team returns several starters as they look to replicate their 2020 success. Meanwhile, Keystone’s boys side will need to rebuild their squad in 2021 after graduating their entire starting lineup.
(Photo by: Dianne McMunn)
Keystone Girls Basketball
Coach: Josh Almes
Last Season: 17-10 (7-3 in KSAC South, 2nd)
2nd in D9 Class AA Playoffs, Lost in Round Two of PIAA Playoffs
The Keystone Girls Basketball squad had a solid 2020 playoff run, overperforming their seed to finish second in Class AA and winning a game in the state playoffs. This season, the Panthers return many of their key players as they look to replicate their deep run. Coach Almes expects big things out his guards, including 15 points-per-game scorer Emily Lauer, and Jozee Weaver, who scored eight points-per-game last season. The versatility of Keystone’s guards will allow the Panthers’ team-oriented offense to run smoothly.
Coach Almes also highlighted the clutch performances of Danae Hurrelbrink and Maddie Dunlap as another strong asset for the Panthers, and the pair of seniors should provide the Panthers with the leadership and poise needed to succeed in crunch time. Down low, Natalie Bowser’s seven points and 10 rebounds-per-game makes the Panthers a tough team around the rim. Almes believes that his squad’s team play and work down low will define their season. “Our team basketball on both sides of the ball is our strength, and this season will depend heavily on [our] consistency from the free throw line and control of the paint on both ends of the floor.”
If the Panthers can continue to play their trademark unselfish style, we can fully expect Keystone to fight for a KSAC South and D9 title.
Coach: Greg Heath
Last Season: 21-4 (9-1 KSAC South, 1st)
4th in D9 Class AA Playoffs
Despite finishing the regular season as the Class AA #1 seed, Keystone fell just short of the state playoffs, dropping games to Clarion and Coudersport to finish fourth in the playoffs. This season, Keystone will need to retool their roster, as they graduated their entire starting lineup.
The Panthers were only able to get four practices in prior to the late December delay, making it challenging for Coach Greg Heath to analyze his new look team. The Panthers have height, with six key players over 5’10”, which should help the team on both ends of the floor. Brandon Pierce, Colin Say, Gavin Hogue, Logan Sell, and Cameron Easton provide experienced leadership for the Panthers, who need these players to succeed in their heightened role.
Keenan Heeter, Bert Wingard, and Zander McHenry all join the team as upperclassmen, and should help Keystone with their tremendous athleticism. Keystone has a lot of gaps to fill, and Coach Heath believes that defense will be Keystone’s key to success. “We have the potential to be a good offensive team, but we will only be as good as our defense will allow,” said Heath. Heath is confident that his athletes have the mentality to succeed: “[My players] have good attitudes and leadership skills, which will be most valuable in this chaotic season we are experiencing.” Keystone may be rebuilding, but with height and strong, versatile players, the Panthers should be one of many teams in the mix for the KSAC South prize.