INGOMAR - The Pine Grove Panthers basketball team wrapped up their summer basketball sessions with a tournament in Ingomar on the last week of June. Despite losing their first game on Thursday, June 27 against Smithville, eliminating them from the tournament, the Panthers accomplished some of their summer goals and are moving forward with confidence.
"I felt like the summer was very productive, not necessarily just because we won games or played well but because we had kids take control of the process," Pine Grove head coach Jake Walker stated. "They finally started to realize that they couldn't dream wins into fruition. Also, we had almost perfect attendance from all players for workouts and games."
Pine Grove was one of the youngest teams around last year as they finished their season 9-20 and made a first round exit in the Class 1A playoffs. Even though the Panthers were young last season, the roster still is loaded with sophomores and freshmen. The Panthers have just two rising seniors, Mason Bullock and Falkner transfer Cade Wilder.
"In most positions we gained a year of experience and how we want to compete," said Walker. "Our age won't be a reason for our successes or failures. We are going to try to be the best basketball players and competitors we can be. Whether they are 13 or 18 they have have learn to empty their tanks every time they step on floor."
A key member of the Panthers' young roster is point guard Carson Rowland. Rowland flashed his incredible ability at times as a freshman last season, including a 44-point performance in a game against Thrasher. But over the summer, Walker says that Rowland is starting to make his game more well-rounded and is starting to help the team in multiple ways.
"Carson is a special kid. He loves the game of basketball," claimed Walker on Rowland. "He has worked hard this summer to not only fill the holes in his game but to also fill holes for our team. He was very adaptable game by game to do whatever was needed for our team to be successful. He wants to win first and foremost."
Rowland's winning nature helped the Panthers knock off some basketball powers like Baldwyn and Ingomar throughout the summer basketball period. Wins like those can go a long way for a team's confidence, especially one with so much youth. But now with four months left before the opening tip of the 2019-2020 season, Walker says that this team has to carry this summer's success into the fall and continue working on their game.
"We had so many players show glimpses of great things this summer," claimed Walker. "Our task from now to November is to find consistency and make sure we maximize every opportunity we have to get stronger and improve our game."