First-year head coach Mike Costa is stressing balance this season.
It’s a new beginning for the Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ basketball team.
After six years and four tournament appearances under Jenna Olem, Mike Costa enters his first season at the helm of the Panthers.
“It’s been an adjustment having a new coach and having some younger players coming up, installing a new system and a new defense,” Costa said. “They’re picking it up.”
The Panthers, who fell to Mansfield, 45-41, in the first round of the Div. 1 South tournament last season, will be tasked with making up for the production of Kathryn Dunn. A two-year captain, now playing at Curry College, she paced W-H in points (11.5), rebounds (8.5) and assists (3.5) per game. Costa said it will be about balance this season.
“We have a lot of talented girls,” he said. “There’s no clear-cut girl that is more talented than anyone else. It’s strength in numbers, almost.”
Along with Dunn, now-senior Brittany Gacicia was a league all-star and provides the Panthers with their most returning production, after dumping in 8.5 ppg and hauling down 7.4 rpg last season.
“Brittany has looked good,” Costa said. “You got to kind of figure out where she likes the ball. She is a really good post up player, she scores around the basket, but she has also improved her jump shot. We have some things in mind for her, so hopefully she has a big year for us.”
Senior Olivia Martin (6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg last season) captains the Panthers and will also be relied upon heavily.
“Liv is very positive and she tries to pick her teammates up in every drill that we do,” Costa said. “She is shooting the ball really well, too.”
Juniors Reese Codero, Rylie Harlow and sophomores Lauren Dunn, Abby Martin and Megan Stone should contribute on both ends of the court.
“I’m sure the lineups are going to vary from game-to-game,” Costa explained. “We have some really good size and they just like to compete. On nights where we have a tough time shooting, our effort and energy are going to help us a lot.”
And with a new coach, comes a new scheme.
“In terms of the stuff that I’m used to running on the boys’ side, it’s more pace and space and dribble drive,” he said. “It’s kind of been a learning curve for myself, and the girls aren’t really used to running this type of system that we’re trying to put in.
“Defensively, we’re going to play tough, hard-nosed man-to-man. We can pretty much play with anybody, we’ve got the size and we’ve got the athleticism. We can go big, we can go small, we can trap and hopefully we can press with anybody. There’s a lot of flexibility on the defensive end, it’s exciting.”
The Panthers are back on the court Friday, Dec. 20 when they host league foe Plymouth North at 5 p.m.
“We’re probably going to take our bumps the first couple of games, but as long as we defend well, we give good effort and energy and we rebound well, we’ll be pretty good,” Costa said. “I think we’ll be tough to beat.”