PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Panthers ready to rely on upperclassmen in 2017-18

Independent file photo TMB’s Parker Kunkel guards a Westbrook-Walnut Grove player during their Dec. 2016 game.

TRACY – It’s never easy replacing a player that averaged 29.9 points and 10.8 rebounds, but that’s exactly what the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers are trying to do this season. Spencer Smith finished his career with 2,059 points, the most in the Independent’s area coverage.

“It will be a challenge to replace all the scoring from Spencer,” TMB coach Rick Haberman said. “That is a concern. We have a lot of guys that have experience, but they don’t have experience playing without Spencer. That might not sound like it’s a big deal because it’s only one guy. Spencer did so much for us last year. When those guys get out there this year everything will be different. They have to do different things. Getting guys used to new roles and doing different stuff is something that we are focused and working through.”

The good news for the Panthers is they return every starter besides Smith. They have five seniors and eight juniors on the roster. It will take a group effort to replace Smith’s production.

“To replace everything that Spencer did we have to do it by committee,” Haberman said. “It’s going to take a bunch of guys to replace what he did. We’re not going to have one player do all the stuff that Spencer did. We are looking to have everybody pitch in.”

Moses Dolan is one of the four returning starters. Haberman said he’s expecting big things out of the senior guard this season.

“I expect leadership out of Moses,” Haberman said. “He’s our primary ball handler. I expect him to take care of the basketball for us. I expect him to get us into our offense. With his experience he’ll have to help out his teammates. He’s a guy we are going to rely on a lot. He has a lot of experience. He’s an excellent athlete. He’s a great competitor. He’s a very competitive guy. With his veteran leadership he’s going to have to calm down the team when it needs to be calmed down. He’s also going to have to maybe light a fire in his teammates when that needs to happen. We will look for him to do a lot of stuff.”

TMB currently owns a 1-1 record. They struggled to score during their season opener against Sleepy Eye and fell, 48-30. They bounced back to win their second game of the season against Sleepy Eye Saint Mary’s 52-44. Haberman said that the Panthers will have a balanced attack offensively and that their calling card will be their play on the defensive end of the court.

“I think we can be pretty balanced on offense,” Haberman said. “We are working hard on being a good defensive and rebounding team.”