By Allen VanNess (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Finishing last season in the middle of the pack in the SWCL, third-year head coach Mandy Rogers and the Forsyth Panthers bring back nearly all their starters and a big majority of their bench and seem poised to make a strong run this season.
Although nearly every player is returning this season, the Panthers are sure to miss the leadership of graduating seniors Kileigh Michel and Kenna Stuart.
“Both Kileigh and Kenna offered a lot of leadership to our program,” said Rogers. “Both were great kids on and off the court. They were inspirational and dedicated kids, and a big part in turning our program around last year.”
Forsyth will be led by all-conference, all-district seniors Lacey Moore and Maycee Lumley. Moore comes into this season after averaging 15.2 points per game last year, while Lumley added another 13.4 points per game.
Along with Moore and Lumley returning, leading rebounder Ashton Davidson is also back this season after averaging nine rebounds per game last year.
While Moore, Lumley and Davidson give the Lady Panthers three high-quality returnees this season, seniors Peyton Gillman and Shyanne Baker, junior Karissa Chambers and sophomores Hannah Sullenger and Brooklyn Romine also return and are all expected to play big roles for the Panthers.
Even with the eight lettermen returning for this season, the Panthers are also ready to see what the newcomers can do to give them even more depth. Junior Hailey McPherson and sophomore Kyndra Drake each bring unique skill sets to Forsyth.
“Kyndra brings a lot of energy to our team defensively,” said Rogers. “She is smart and a hard worker. Hailey has improved tremendously in the last three years. She is very strong and works hard. If she continues to improve, I can see her being a contributor and bringing some much needed size to our post play.”
Two freshmen newcomers, Emily Shipman and Kenlee Nuss, also have a chance to step and make major contributions for the Panthers as the season wears on as well.
“Both freshmen are talented athletes that are coming along with their basketball skill set,” Rogers said of Shipman and Nuss. “Both have the potential to be seeing big time minutes by district time.”
Overall, Rogers knows the schedule and the SWCL conference will both be tough this year, but she also believes her team’s experience and talent are up to the task.
“Our schedule will certainly be tougher this year,” Rogers said. “We have added another tournament. We already play some tough teams and so many teams from last year are adding more experience and more depth. We will have to get better defensively and rely on that to carry us and create good offensive looks for us.”
The Panthers kickoff their season with back-to-back contests on Nov. 21 when they host the Seymour Lady Tigers, before they travel to Purdy on Nov. 22 to battle the Lady Eagles.