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Pine-Richland girls basketball starts new era with young team

Kevin Lohman
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland girls basketball coach Tom Reighard prepares team for the upcoming 2018-2019 season Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland’s girls basketball team prepares for the upcoming 2018-2019 season Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland’s Kendall Gessner competes during practice Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland’s Megan Luellen competes during practice Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

With just four returning players from last season and eight freshmen on its 15-player roster, the vibe around the Pine-Richland girls basketball team this season is that it’s the start of something new.

Having so many first-year players and new contributors at the varsity level may be daunting for many coaches, but Rams coach Tom Reighard chooses to see it from a more enthusiastic perspective.

“I’m excited about the season. We have 15 kids on the team, and four of them are back from last year. So it’s like a brand-new team,” Reighard said.

“We do have two starters back, but it’s a lot of freshmen and inexperienced players. Either way, it’s a hard-working group. They have a lot of speed. They come in the gym and get after it every day. It’s exciting. They may not have the experience, but they come in and work hard every day.”

The two returning starters for the Rams, senior Kendall Gessner and junior Meghan Luellen, will be relied on to buoy the group. Gessner, an all-section honorable mention performer last season, will play guard and forward for Pine-Richland. Luellen will look to lead as a guard and ball-handler for her team.

“We’re looking to lean on those two girls because of their experience and their ability to be leaders for us,” Reighard said.

“We feel good about that because they’re very capable. We want those two girls to help bring the other kids together and show them what it’s all about, playing at the varsity level.”

Beyond Gessner and Luellen, playing spots are up for grabs. Reighard said he will continue to assess the rotation as they scrimmage and play their first few games. The Rams hope to rotate nine or 10 players to complement a run-and-gun style of offense that seeks to accentuate their strengths at guard and mitigate their lack of height.

Seniors Meghan O’Connor and Alaina Kalin will be competing along with juniors Olivia Hanulak, Olivia Mehalick and sophomore Ekaterini Balouris for spots in the rotation. Freshmen Gianna Reighard, Rylie Bach, Kaitlyn Kerns, Christina Yarbrough, Ella Searles, Sophie Catalano, Maddie Patton and Erica Weinberg also are in the mix.

“Everyone’s going to get their chance to see what they can do. I want to figure out the five girls that play best together and put them out there,” Reighard said.

“We have some young kids coming up that have some ability, and I want to play fast and see what we can do. I want to see us out there running, using our speed and getting after it.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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