The Montezuma-Cortez High School Lady Panthers are seeking a fresh start on the basketball court.
After a disappointing 2011-12 season, there is a new attitude and level of excitement in the program.
Third-year coach Justine Bayles doesnt have a lot of experience on her team. But the level of commitment in practice to get better is something she did not see a season ago.
Were building a program. Last year, we saw the bare bones of being down in our upperclassmen, Bayles said. This year, Im just so excited to see the number of sophomores and freshmen coming in. Theyre going to play a key role in the building of our program.
Senior starting returners are sharpshooting ace Randy Elliott and defensive specialist Tori Laymon.
I look at these girls to be leaders and want to be mentors, said Bayles about her returning seniors. I think these are two girls that can provide that mentorship. I think they can lead a team.
First-year senior Elsie Walck will look to be a starter.
Sophomores Nicole Demby, Abby Chupp, Savannah Jacket and Chantell Manuel will give the Lady Panthers a youthful, athletic spark.
I have a lot of underclassmen, who are ready to step up and prove to everyone that this is a viable program, Bayles said.
Coach Bayles will run a half court offense, slowing the tempo and setting up plays to control each possession.
Defensively, the coach feels her team has the athleticism to mix in zone and man-to-man defenses.
Were going to slow the pace a little, Bayles said. And, I think we have the size that we need to play a tough defense. Everyone is going to be surprised at what were going to be able to put on the court this year.
M-CHS will participate in an unofficial scrimmage on Nov. 24, before opening the regular season at Gallup, N.M., against Miyamura High School. Tournaments in Steamboat Springs and Palisade, and road games at Aztec (N.M.) and Bayfield round out nonconference play.
It will be nice to be able to go somewhere and play teams that were not used to playing, Bayles said. Usually, when we go away in the preseason, the girls look really good, and we come home and we have the long (Christmas) break. It seems to hang us up just a little bit, but Im ready for those long trips.
Southwestern League play begins Jan. 18, 2013 at 5A Fruita Monument.
The Lady Panthers will conclude the regular season on a five-game home stand.
I think well be able to use that to our advantage and build some momentum on our home floor, Bayles said.
The season tip off is Thursday, Nov. 29, at Miyamura at 5:30 p.m.