Members of Lakeside High School's girls basketball team can't remember the last time the program reached the state playoffs.
They can remember how close they came last season. And that feeling, after a 47-40 loss to Hephzibah in the region tournament after the Panthers led most of the way, has been a motivating force as Lakeside prepares for its Tuesday season-opener.
"That was kind of a hard way to end the season," Panthers senior Lindsey Weidenaar said.
"Especially since we were up by so much," teammate Carolyn Hennecken added.
Lakeside appears in good shape for another run. Hennecken and fellow junior Tishal Turknett, the leading scorers last season, are back. Weidenaar, at almost 6-foot, will play more on the perimeter than the post to take advantage of her outside shooting.
The Panthers graduated just one senior, Kathleen Early, who brought a high-energy component to the Panthers' defense. But Lakeside coach Maureen McCormack said Turknett has the ability to take on multiple roles.
McCormack said the Panthers might have depth issues, especially early in the season when the younger players learn the flow of varsity competition. That means more reliance on Hennecken and Turknett.
"You need everybody to play well, everybody on the team," McCormack said. "But those two, they have to be consistent.
"They have to step up every night. I think they're ready to do that."
For the boys, coach Ryan Morningstar might have the most upperclassmen of any Panthers team he's coached. But that's not a lot of comfort for a team that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago.
"There's a lot of question marks for a team with five seniors (starting)," Morningstar said.
The Panthers' four known starters -- Michael Punch, Khadi Tshishiku, Chris Hartfield and Justin Pitock -- are all seniors with some varsity experience. But none have had to carry the scoring load before this season.
Morningstar hasn't identified a go-to player as his team prepares for its home-opener with Greenbrier on Tuesday. He said he was pleased with what he saw from Punch during summer scrimmages.
"He's probably going to draw the better defenders from the other teams," Morningstar said. "He's really developed as far as being able to take the ball to the basket."
The Panthers' core the past three seasons had been Cody Marsh, Rosbie Mutcherson and CJ Marshall -- any of whom could be counted on to pick the team up when the others weren't performing, Morningstar said. This year's group has a new look with the same expectations.
"They know what I expect of them,'' he said. "It's their time to shine."
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