NEW FRANKLIN  With tournament action looming just around the corner, the lady Panthers basketball team is to looking to put together a strong finish in a regular season that has had its fair share of ups and downs.

Manchester entered their campaign with high hopes and expectations, but injuries have derailed a once promising ledger. Just two games into their season, the Panthers suffered a severe blow losing starting center McKenzie Ferguson, and have never fully recovered.

"We are not where I hoped we would be," stated first-year head coach Shawn Zavodney. "We knew coming into the season that we had a great chance to make some noise as long as there were no key injuries, but halfway through the second game that happened. We lost our senior post player McKenzie Ferguson to a torn ACL. It has made a huge impact on the team not only with her high level of play, but she was the heart and soul of this team. We have quite a few underclassmen and they all really looked up to her."

Manchester, who is 5-11 overall, and 2-7  in league play, was 1-1 with Ferguson in their starting line-up, and managed to hold their own hovering around the .500 mark midway through season, but have fallen upon tough times recently dropping five straight including a 56-28 loss to neighboring rival Green on Monday night.

"We are doing as well as can be expected," claimed Zavodney. "In spite of Kenzie's loss, the girls continue to play hard. We approach every game, the same, we want to win, and the girls are doing a great job. We now start three freshmen and are still finding some wins here and there. I am proud of the girls and the coaching staff. They both had the opportunity to just give up and that hasn't been the case. They all just work that much harder.

"I really like the way our underclassmen are developing. Our freshman point guard Karli Anker is doing what we all knew she could do. Double-digit scoring average, and most the time doing this while getting guard by seasoned veterans. She may be leading the PAC in a lot of areas as a freshmen. She is certainly making history at Manchester, no freshman has ever done what she is accomplishing this year. Our senior leader now Jordan Campbell has also answered the call by elevating her play to a new level. She is averaging almost triple the output from just one year ago. You would be hard pressed to find a better 1-2 in any league."

Anker is currently leading her squad in three statistical categories 16.6 points per game, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 steals. Campbell contributes 13.9 points, and 3.1 assists, while Liz Seidel is tops in the rebounding department with 8.6 per outing.

Other contributors noted by Zavodney are his two upperclassmen Tristan Zavodney and Ashley Forret.

"I'm really proud of the rest of our seniors Tristan (Zavodney) and Ashley (Forret)," he praised. "They keep their heads held high and do a good job encouraging and mentoring our younger players."

Looking forward the remainder of the season and beyond, Zavodney believes his team could be a darkhorse.

"I expect us to find some more wins, hopefully against a few of the PAC teams who we are now seeing for the second time," he said. "I feel we have the ability to make a run in the tournament. We would definitely need a few freshmen to go above and beyond, but very possible. I wouldn't want to face us."