By Craig Harvey
For the first time since 2005, the Pine Valley Lady Panthers are heading to the Class D Far West Regionals.
The Pine Valley Lady Panthers celebrate winning the Section 6 Class D championship on Saturday afternoon.
P-J photo by Jay Young
Pine Valley, the No. 3-ranked Class D team in the state will take on Romulus, the No. 1 ranked Class D team in the state on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Finger Lakes Community College.
The Romulus roster features three players listed at 6-foot or taller, led by 6-0 center Breanne Berlin. The other two post players - Zoe McDonald and Jessica Rhone - stand 5-foot-11 and each average 13 points a game.
The Lady Panthers' post players consist of 5-9 Aaren Waterman and 5-8 Kayla Mansfield.
"This is the biggest team, by far, we have faced," Pine Valley coach Tim Nobles said. " They press all over the court the whole game. They have a good inside game and can shoot the ball. They have a couple really good athletes. (McDonald) is a very good athlete. Their little guard (Cheyenne Howe) is very scrappy. The other point guard is a nice shooter and penetrator. I can see where they probably have gone through and handled a lot of teams. (In practice) we work against the pressure - 5-on-6. We just try to work on basics (such as) boxing out when the shot goes up. It's the biggest team we have faced. Our attitude is we won't let them change what we do. We will press and push the ball and take shots when we have them."
Pine Valley is making its 13th trip to the Far West Regionals where it sports a 9-3 record, but has never faced Romulus.
"Section 5 is usually pretty strong," Nobles said. "It's a different D team every year. It feels like we always play someone different."
And while the Lady Panthers are in uncharted territory, they aren't driving to Canandaigua without knowledge of the big stage. Nobles has been to the Far West Regionals multiple times, as has assistant coach Bri Cortrwight and other teachers in the Pine Valley district.
"My attitude is there has been a couple years we should have went and we didn't," Nobles said. "This year's team, we felt we deserved to go. This year we felt we were the best team and deserved to go. In that respect, it's nice to fulfill our own expectations. Our goal was to go to states, so we still haven't reached all our goals yet."
Like Romulus, Pine Valley has received a balanced scoring attack, led by Mansfield's 12 points a game and Alex Bentham's 11. And with the trio of post players the Lady Warriors possess, Pine Valley will need a big performance from its guards.
"They have to handle the pressure and break the press," Nobles said. "I think we will get open looks. We have to be able to hit the outside shot and make layups. Foul shooting, we have been really poor at lately, and that's not what we do. We have to make the shots we are capable of making."