By Kevin Harvison
PITTSBURG — Wes Wood spent his last two years coaching girls’ basketball at Wewoka before taking over as the head basketball and baseball coach for the 2013-14 school year at Pittsburg.
With Wood at the helm, both the Lady Panthers and Panthers begin their basketball season dreaming of better finishes than last year.
“If we play to our capability and stay with it, we should be in the hunt to go to Oklahoma City,” Wood said of the Lady Panthers onTuesday, referring to the Class B State Tournament.
The 2013-14 Lady Panthers have seven juniors and seniors on a nine-girl roster. Three of those upperclassmen started for last year’s team that reached the consolation semifinals at Regionals, starting with senior captain Chandler Billingsley.
“Leading scorer, versatile, one of those players you hate to lose next year,” Wood said of Billingsley. “She can play. If I can get here a little meaner, that’ll be even better.”
Wood said Billingsley played forward last year and might do so again this year, but she also has the ball-handling skill necessary to be a point guard. As guard, Billingsley will work with Trei Haynes, another senior guard and captain who, like Billingsley, played on the 2010-11 Pittsburg team that made State.
“Trei gives us good defense, especially on another team’s guards, and a good shooter from the baseline,” Wood said.
Junior Erin Cross rounds out Pittsburg’s starting guards as an outside shooter. Sophomore Alissa Maloy will be one of the team’s forwards, while junior Leighah Carney gives Pittsburg a fourth guard option when they want to move Billingsley to the post.
“She’s a little bit undersized at that position, but she plays very physical, which I like, and very rarely gets tired,” Wood said of Maloy.
Wood said Mikal Wainscott could eventually be Pittsburg’s other starting post, but for now she’ll come off the bench as she recovers from a preseason illness.
With so much experience and athleticism to work with, Wood said the Lady Panthers will try to run a high-speed offense. An ideal offensive sequence would be Maloy grabbing a rebound, kicking it out to Billingsley, Billingsley bringing it up the court in just a few steps, then dishing it to Cross in the corner for a 3-pointer.
“We’re trying to get (shots in) seven seconds,” Wood said. “That’s our rule.
“We run a bunch, so we’re going to try to be in better shape than you.”
Wood said the Lady Panthers will use a combination of full-court man-to-man defense and half-court traps on defense.
Pittsburg’s boys’ teams haven’t been quite at the same level as its girls’ teams over the last few seasons. As Wood slowly gets the Panthers up to speed, he said he’ll go with 1-2-2 and 1-3-1 half-court trap defenses, which tend to be less physically demanding and easier to run.
Of course, a simpler defense doesn’t mean low expectations for the season.
“They’re a lot better than winning six games in two years, and I think they’re starting to buy into that,” Wood said of the Panthers, whose postseason lasted just one game last season.
“If we play as well as we can, we should at least have a chance to go to Area.”
Wood said he wants the Panthers to learn “control” on the basketball court. That means driving to the basket without committing offensive fouls and knowing when to pull up for a mid-range jumper instead of going all the way to the hoop.
“We’re a lot more slower-paced than the girls play,” Wood said.
“It allows us the ability to use our big guys down there, too, that can, if we’ll get on the ball, finish.”
To set the team’s pace, Wood will start Gunnar Parent at point guard.
“He’s going to be a scorer for us,” Wood said of Parent.
“He’s really better at, with the offensive we run, kind of getting the edge and going to the basket, or getting in there and kind of pulling up for a mid-range.”
Senior Kyle Shields will play shooting guard, giving the team some toughness and good defense. Senior Maverick Danley will play small forward.
“If we play a team that ... runs a lot of zone, he should get some shots up and hopefully knock them down,” Wood said of Danley.
"He’s one of our best defenders. His hands are really active all the time. He might get some fouls, but he’s going to get some turnovers, too.”
Senior Shawn Luman will be the Panthers’ starting power forward, while sophomore Ethan Thomason will play center. Wood said Luman is a good scorer able to run pick-and-roll plays with Parent, and both players can switch from guard to forward as necessary.
“He’s about 6-foot-4, going to be even bigger, probably,” Wood said of Thomason.
“Just has to get a little quicker feet, but he’s a really good shooter. He can step out, and actually, he’s one of our better 3-point shooters.”
Wood said he currently has 13 players on his team. Potential contributors off the bench include sophomore Bradley Barron, who’d sub in for Thomason, and junior Patrick Shannon, a forward with active hands capable of forcing turnovers.
Pittsburg begins its basketball season at the Wilson-Henryetta Festival on Friday and Saturday, then plays at Crowder on Tuesday and at Stuart on Nov. 8. Pittsburg plays its first home game Nov. 12 against Kiowa.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.