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Buckeye Local boys looking to get over the hump

Photo Provided PICTURED IS the 2020-21 Buckeye Local Panthers basketball team. Front row, from left, are Braydon Walker, Anthony Deitch, Matt Scott, Cameron Best, Hayden Taylor, Jacob Zanes and Ryan Deitch. Second row, from left, are Dayne Carter, Hunter Roush, Cameron Grabits, Mason Brown, Jake Mayle, Isaac Chandler, Ethan McHugh and Phoenix Velez.

CONNORVILLE — Graduation may have taken five players from the Panther roster, but head coach Chris Heaton still remembers what last season could have been with just a few more points.

Heaton returns to the top spot at Buckeye Local with a memory of six games that escaped the Panthers clutches last season by close margins. The Panthers finished at 6-17 a year ago,but could have been more.

“Looking back at last season, we had numerous close games that we were in until the end,” Heaton said. “Some of those games we were able to win and others we weren’t able to get over the hump. I feel like in our sectional game against Union Local we played a great first half, but weren’t able to put a complete game together.”

“As a coaching staff, we used those close games as coachable moments and I hope as our team was able to mature and grow from the experience, they gained last season,” he continued.

Graduation took some very skilled players in Jacob Moffo, Dalton Watt, Jacob Pielech, Lance Novak and Josh Kinyo. All five were major contributors last season.

“We have the talent here to be successful, but we need our guys to play with the right mindset, confidence and consistency throughout the season, Heaton said. “We have been telling our guys that good and bad things happen throughout the course of a game, but it’s how you respond to the bad things that will determine what type of team we will be.”

Like every coach, Heaton has been forced to adjust to the COVID restraints. The lack of summer leagues, open gyms and the availability of camps were an issue this summer.

“Unfortunately, without having any type of summer league and shootouts, we had to rely a lot on individual work. We were able to get back into the gym towards the middle of July and haven’t looked back. We had 28 kids tryout for this year’s team and a majority of them were consistently attending open gym and workouts,” Heaton pointed out.

“We have developed a day-by-day attitude with everything that is the new norm. We have to practice and play like (each day) might be our last because everything could get shut down. As a coaching staff, we are trying to preach to the kids to do the right thing by maintaining their social distance, wearing masks and staying away from large crowds.”

Heaton’s roster is very balanced among the classes with five seniors, five juniors, six sophomores and six freshmen.

Buckeye’s senior group brings a lot of experience with two three-year letter winners in 6-3 guard-forward Mason Brown and guard Cameron Grabits (6-0). A pair of two-year lettermen are guard Jake Mayle (6-4) and guard Jacob Zanes (5-10). Another returning letter winner is guard Hayden Taylor (5-10), who played his first year at Buckeye a year ago.

Two returning letter winners can be found in the junior contingent. The duo is guard Cameron Best (5-10) and forward Ethan McHugh (6-0). The junior group also includes forward Anthony Deitch (6-0), Hunter Roush (5-11) and guard Matt Scott (5-7).

The sophomore class includes: guard Dayne Carter (6-1), Isaac Chandler (6-3), guard Ryan Deitch (5-10), guard-forward Braydon Walker (6-0) and guard CJ Parrish (5-10).

Buckeye’s staff also has six freshmen to work with including guard Anthony Parrish (5-6), forward Ryder Kindberg-Colabelli, forward Gavyn Romanyak (6-4), guard Preston Lindsay (5-4), guard Cooper Grabits (5-11) and guard AJ Devore (5-9).

“Obviously, we will be relying heavily on our upperclassmen who have been in our program over the past (few) years. I think our experience will help us out, especially early on as we continue to establish an identity on both the offensive and defensive ends.”

Heaton has a good staff with assistant coaches Joe Soos and Cameron McKim and junior high coaches Matt Spencer and Jimmy Colabelli.

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