PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Panthers relying on veteran experience going into the season

Independent file photo TMB’s Kaylee Kirk shoots a jumper during their Feb. 20 game against Lac qui Parle Valley. The Panthers open their 2017-18 season tonight against Canby.

TRACY – The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers have been knocking on the door of the state tournament the past two seasons. During the 2014-2015 season the Panthers finished with a 20-4 record and lost in the section championship. Last year the Panthers went 22-2 and were tripped up in the section championship. The Panthers are hoping the third time will be the charm.

“We would certainly like another shot at getting to state,” TMB coach Derek Ashbaugh said. “That’s one of our goals for sure. I think the girls would like to get back to the conference championship game again this year and win it this time. I think the biggest goal is to get a shot at state.”

The Panthers will have a strong core returning as they gear up for a run at the section championship. Kaylee Kirk, Evelyn Dolan and Sydney Lanoue have all been playing at the varsity level for four years. This will be the third year that Sidney Karbo has played at the varsity level.

“I think our experience will be something that we can rely on,” Ashbaugh said. “Kaylee has been playing varsity since she was an eighth grader. Evy Dolan and Sydney Lanoue have played four years. Sidney Karbo has played three years.”

Kirk, Dolan, Lanoue and Karbo are four of eight seniors on the roster. Ashbaugh said that it’s a talented class that’s put in a lot of time in the gym.

“A couple of them have a lot of years of varsity experience,” Ashbaugh said. “It’s not just a strong senior class, it’s a big senior class. We have eight seniors on the roster. They’ve meant a lot to the program and done a lot of different things. They’ve also experienced a lot of things as well. They’ve put in a lot of time. They are a good group to be around.”

The Panthers have interchangeable parts in the lineup. They have a number of players that can play and guard multiple positions. That versatility figures to create a lot of mismatches throughout the course of the season.

“I think our versatility will be a big thing for us,” Ashbaugh said. “We have a lot of different kids that can play different positions. That’s going to create some mismatch opportunities that we can hopefully take advantage of.”

This group of seniors for TMB have accomplished a lot during their careers. One thing that has eluded them is a section championship and a trip to state. Ashbaugh said that if they play to their potential they’ll be happy with the results at the end of the season.

“As long as our girls play to the best of their abilities and play to their potential we’ll be happy with whatever result we get,” Ashbaugh said. “This is a talented group. They play incredibly hard. A conference championship is one of our goals and a section championship is up there as a goal as well.”