The Suburbanite
  • Lady Panthers clinch ninth-straight PAC-7 hoop title

  • The Manchester girls defied all odds this season and won its ninth consecutive PAC-7 basketball championship, despite fielding a team with a majority of underclassmen and just one returning starter.

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  • The Manchester girls defied all odds this season and won its ninth consecutive PAC-7 basketball championship, despite fielding a team with a majority of underclassmen and just one returning starter.
    Coming off a record-breaking 24-1 campaign, the Lady Panthers were hoping just to be able to compete for a crown this season, but as the season progressed, everything fell into place.
    In fairness to its league counterparts, the word “rebuilding” just doesn’t seem to fit with Manchester’s cage program. Instead, “re-loading” seems to be the more appropriate term.
    “I’m real proud of this group,” praised head coach Tucker Pappas, who is 177-30 in his ninth year at his alma mater. “Going into the season, we really weren’t sure what to expect. We lost four starters, who were very talented that got us to the regional.
    “We knew we were capable of having a pretty decent year, because we have some good athletes and leaders on the team. We started out a little slow, then things came together for us. Everything started clicking. We’re playing our best ball of the season when it counts. It’s pretty exciting.”
    Through four games this year, the Lady Panthers’ record stood at 2-2 following a tough overtime loss at Canton Central Catholic. Since that point, Manchester has won 15 of 16 games, including a current 10-game winning streak, to improve to 17-3.
    The lone blemish was a 66-60 setback in Gnadenhutten to Indian Valley on Dec. 22. Manchester avenged the loss by defeating the Braves 84-58 on Jan. 30, which turned out to be the clincher for the PAC-7 title.
    “It was nice to be able to come back and defeat them (Indian Valley),” Pappas said. “We didn’t play well at all the first time we played them. It was our most disappointing loss this year.”
    Pappas said nothing has been a given this season like in the past.
    “Our kids have earned everything this year,” he said. “We’ve been in a lot of dogfights. It has been tough all the way around. We had to fight and claw in some of our games, but I feel that has made us a better team. I feel the key to our success has been our conditioning. We seem to be able to wear out opponents as the games go on. Also, our ball movement has improved so much during the course of the year.
    “They girls have worked extremely hard and are always willing to learn. They are such an unselfish group that tries to get everyone involved.”
    Junior Kayci Krzynowek, the lone returning starter, is one of the team’s leaders. The 5-foot-4 guard averages 15.9 points, 6.7 assists and 3.2 steals per game. She had 21 points and 11 assists against Indian Valley last week.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Kayci is a game-changer for us,” Pappas said. “She does so many things for us and always gets everyone involved. She’s phenomenal and is one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”
    Alex Klein, a 5-foot-8 forward, has come into her own this season, putting up big numbers. The talented sophomore leads the team in scoring and rebounding. She averages 18.1 and 6.8 rebounds per outing.
    “Alex has also been tremendous for us,” Pappas said. “She’s our leading scorer and rebounder. She a game-changer too, and has improved so much this year.”
    Rounding out Manchester’s big three is junior Karely Dougherty. The 5-foot-8 guard/forward averages 12.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.7 steals.
    “Karley can do it all for us,” Pappas said. “Offensively, defensively, she is as steady as they come. When she gets hot from the field, she can carry a team.”
    Other key contributors this year are sophomore guard Emma Kreakbaum, freshman guard Grier Cowles and sophomore forward Brittnni Porter.
    Senior Morgan Petroff and juniors Allie Richmond, Sydney Soccorsi and Sarah Morgan round out the team.
    With tournament play just around the corner, the bar has been raised.
    “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get to the districts to get some experience for next year,” Pappas said. “Now we like to get to the district finals. I like where we sit, and think we can make a nice run if we continue to improve and play together.”

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