SEASON PREVIEW: REYNOLDS
One basket was all that separated last year's Lady Raiders from the playoffs. A last-second potential buzzer-beater was ruled too late, and Mercer went to the playoffs as Reynolds was left at home, wondering what could have been after the 47-45 loss.
Now, coach Justin Magestro's team is back, largely intact, and they want to show their MCAC Class AA adversaries they belong among the elite.
"Class AA will be up for grabs," said Magestro. "And, hopefully, we'll be one of the ones grabbing. This is the most focused team I've coached yet."
The focus comes from the Lady Raiders' senior class, and the key will be 5-9 guard Kristen Micsky, a three-year letterwinner, an MCAC Big School first team member last season, a member of the 1999-2000 Herald Fab 15 team and the top scorer in Mercer County (475 points).
In fact, all five starters are letterwinners, including 5-7 guard-forward Cathy Woods and 5-9 forward Erin Fleet, both two-year letterwinners, and 5-7 guard-forward Jamie Saul, looking for her second letter this year. Rounding out the starters will be Katie McLaughlin, a 5-3 junior point guard also looking for her second letter. Rounding up the upperclass is 5-4 senior point guard Pam Cromie.
"Our senior leadership is very important to the team," said Magestro. "Our juniors are also very close, and the team concept on and off the court will be important. There is a synergy here."
Junior Jenna Blackburn, a 5-9 forward, will look for time off the bench, as will sophomores Teresa Lesnett, a 5-5 guard, Heather Miller, a 5-9 forward, and Stacey Kerr, a 6-1 center. Two freshmen, 5-4 guard Marti Shellenbarger and 5-3 point guard Jessica Saul, will also see varsity time.
In addition to Class AA Mercer, Wilmington and Greenville, the Lady Raiders will tackle Class AAA Sharon twice and Slippery Rock and Grove City once and all four Class A teams (Commodore Perry, Kennedy Christian, Sharpsville and West Middlesex) twice.
Reynolds will be without the services of Crystal McGarvey, their second-leading point-getter with 308 points last year, and Curtina Beblo, who managed to break triple-digits despite being hampered by injuries.
Magestro says this year's team is more aggressive on defense, and they play more up-tempo than last year.
"They've put in a lot of hours in the gym over the summer, and our competition will help us in the postseason," he noted.
He plans to install both man-to-man and zone defenses to throttle the opposition.
Coach Magestro also noted he could not have accomplished the success he has found with the Lady Raiders without the help of his assistants.
"Our coaching staff is very experienced and the girls respond well to them," he said.
The staff includes varsity assistant Christopher Mele and junior varsity coaches Ken Laaks and Eugene Sarazen.
"We've got goals, we're focused, and the team is ready to step up and accept the challenge," Magestro concluded. "With a little luck, we can go back to where we were and better." -- By Herald writer Scott DeJulia
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