HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Last year, the Hoosick Falls Central School girls basketball team had a year that no one — expect maybe themselves — ever expected.
The Panthers came out of nowhere to finish 23-2 on the season, winning the Section II, Class B sectional championship and reaching the state championship game.
With all the success they had, you would think that Hoosick Falls would be setting their sights high this season, but the Panthers are just taking things game by game.
"We're just taking things one game at a time this season," said Hoosick Falls coach Eamonn DeGraaf. "Last season was last season. We can't dwell on that. This is a new season and a clean slate for all of us on the team."
First things first, the Panthers will need to find replacements for the three starters they graduated last year in Rachel Pine, Chelsea Stevens and Taylor Hayes.
All three girls were a huge part of the offense last season and Pine was the team's best player.
"We know it's not going to be easy replacing Rachel, Chelsea and Taylor," DeGraaf said. "They were all great players for us and you can't expect the players who fill their roles this year to be what they were exactly for us last season. It's going have to be more of a group effort to fill those girls shoes."
The Panthers though do have a trio of returning varsity players from last year, who can step into those roles.
First up is senior Megan Flynn, who will be one of the team's main offensive threats this season. The three-year starter was a huge threat down in the paint for the Panthers last season, averaging a double-double on the season.
Flynn's partner-in-crime in the Panthers' front court is Rachel's sister, Kelly Pine, who will be Hoosick's next top scoring threat.
"Our offense is going to come through the play of our outstanding forwards, down in the paint," DeGraaf said. "We tell our guards to try get the ball down on the block to Megan or Kelly and give them an opportunity to make something happen."
Senior Anna Wysocki fills out the "Big Three" for Hoosick Falls this season. Wysocki will be one of the starting guards for the Panthers in their back court this year and is the team's best defensive player.
Overall, defense will be the biggest strength for the Panthers this season. So far in their first two Wasaren League games this season, Hoosick Falls has held opponents to an average of 26 points per game.
"Defense will definitely be a big strength for our team this year," DeGraaf said. "We have a lot of scrappy players on our team, who can play defense on the perimeter and down in the paint. Teams in our league are going to have a tough time trying score on us this season."
Rounding out the starters for the Panthers this season, will be junior Lizza Ryan and sophomore Eliza Whitman. Both players are expected to have bigger roles on the team this season.
Last year, Ryan primarily came off the bench for the Panthers to provide depth at the point guard position. She is one of the best ball handlers on the team and can play great defense on the perimeter as well.
Whitman, on the other hand, will be seeing her first varsity action this season. Last year, Whitman played only on the junior varsity squad, but because of her ability to shoot the basketball, it helped her gain a lot playing time this season.
"Lizza and Eliza are going to have to be impact players for us this season," DeGraaf said. "Both girls can shoot, which were lacking right now and can attack the basket, so they can add another element to our offense if they can continue to step for us throughout the year."
Sophomore Ally Burdick will also be a key player for the Panthers this season as Hoosick's first option off the bench. She can play both guard positions and is a very good defensive player as well.
All that said, Hoosick Falls has the pieces again to make a successful run at a sectional championship this season. The team though is just focusing on each game at a time.
"We're just going take things game by game and see where were at by the end of the season," DeGraaf said. "Our hope is that will be again one of the top teams in the Wasaren League and that will be in a good shot to win the league title again. If we do that, then will start talking about winning a second straight sectional title."
So far this year, Hoosick Falls is 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Wasaren League.
Their next game will be at home against fellow Wasaren League rival Cambridge, who they will play tonight at 7 p.m.