Lakeside boys basketball coach Donnie Burch has a saying for the 2005 Panthers:
"You're either on the train or you're on the tracks."
Most of the Lakeside squad has been on the train for a while.
On this season's 12-man roster, the Panthers return nine seniors to the team. The numbers translate into a team with loads of experience and a now-or-never mind-set.
"Out of all the years I've been coaching, I've never seen a group with so much energy," Burch said.
Point guard Bena Tshishiku is a perfect example of the type of weapon Burch has this season. Tshishiku has climbed through the junior varsity ranks since his freshman year and will now begin his senior season leading the Panthers offense.
Senior shooting guard Jason Hobbs joins Tshishiku for one of the quickest back courts in the county.
Center Alex Fain, also a senior, will start in the paint for Lakeside while most of the offensive production could come from senior Brandon Rose and junior Blake Brandenburg.
On the Lady Panthers' side of the ball, a pair of sophomores will be the key to Lakeside's success.
Sophomores Essense Nixon and Alex Cassagnol will start for the Lady Panthers this year on a team that sees yet another new head coach take control.
"I think this is the fourth coach in four years for our senior point guard," first-year coach Mo McCormick said. "That takes its toll on a team."
However, several of the Lady Panthers have played on the varsity squad for only two years or less. McCormick said the team has plenty of youth, but also plenty to learn.
"I like to run a lot of different offenses," McCormick said. "The girls are very coachable."
Senior Perrin Fryer is a key offensive weapon for the Lady Panthers. Fryer, teamed with newcomers Nixon and Cassagnol, could surprise many unsuspecting opponents during the regular season.
"They'll be very important players for us," McCormick said. "Perrin is our senior point guard, and she'll guard the best player on opposing teams. She'll be instrumental."
The Panthers and Lady Panthers begin the season on the road Friday at Greenbrier.
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