The boys’ basketball team finished the year 18-7, including a pair of playoff wins.
Once again, the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ basketball team was tasked with replacing its entire starting five at the outset of the season. Once again, it was no problem as the Panthers marched to their 11th straight tournament appearance.
“It sets the foundation for future teams to build on,” said 19-year head coach Bob Rodgers, whose team finished the year 18-7. “It’s now an expectation that we’re gonna make the state tournament.”
However, unlike last season, the Panthers advanced in the tournament, winning their first two games as the eight seed. In the first round of the Div. 2 South playoffs, they knocked off ninth-ranked Dennis-Yarmouth, 60-57, followed by a win over top-seeded Randolph, 60-51, in the quarterfinals.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going into the season,” Rodgers said. “It was really a case of a really balanced team. We didn’t have anyone who scored 15 or 20 points per game. I couldn’t be more happy than what this team accomplished and how we grew from the beginning of the year to where we were at the end.”
In their third trip to the semifinals in the past four seasons, they succumbed to second-ranked New Mission, 79-70, in overtime.
The Panthers were indeed led by a balanced effort on offense with five players contributing 5.5 ppg or more.
“We didn’t have any inside presence, in terms of pounding it into a post player, but we really got to the hoop really well,” Rodgers said. “We had a lot of guys that could drive and knock down the 3 really well.”
The Panthers certainty did knock down the 3 ball really well. After connecting on just 149 triples last season, one that Rodgers coined an apparition, they sunk around 200 this year.
Junior Ben Rice scorer led the 3-point barrage with around 50. He also led the team in scoring with over 11.6 ppg.
“Ben is an absolute gym rat,” Rodgers said. “He’s always in the gym working on his shot. He had steady improvement in his game in terms of becoming a better defender and becoming someone we can rely on to do more than just shoot the ball.”
With an ability to get into the lane for a quick two and knock down a shot from beyond the arc, sophomore Cole LeVangie produced close to 10 ppg, which was good for second on the team.
“He can handle the ball and can shoot it,” Rodgers said. “He’s very unselfish and plays a total team basketball game.”
Junior Stevie Kelly was a sparkplug at the point for the Panthers’ offense, delivering over 130 assists on the season and averaging right around 8.3 ppg.
“He’s just a hard-nosed, tough player who can affect the game on both ends of the court,” Rodgers said. “He’s a terrific defensive player. He’s physically stronger than most guards he goes up against. He was an outstanding player for us this year.”
Rodgers said he knows exactly what he is looking for from his players this offseason.
“It’s going to take the entire group to committing to getting stronger and basically playing the game together, and still improving our shooting and still improving our basketball skill,” said the coach. “It’s going to depend on which guys are bringing guys into the gym with them, not just going into the gym themselves.”