The Palmyra boys basketball team hopes to build upon early success in its pursuit of titles later this winter.
The Palmyra boys basketball team won just three games in its first 10 contests a season ago. The slow start resulted in an 11-17 campaign and a loss in the district semifinals.
Palmyra coach Ryan Wood is hoping for a better start this time around for some momentum to carry throughout the season.
“I think the big key for us this season is how we start,” the Panthers coach said. “We got off to a pretty rotten start last year. But if we can get a few wins early this year and build some confidence I think it will make us better down the stretch.”
Leading the Panthers will be senior Peyton Plunkett.
The all-conference and all-district player from a season ago will be expected to do a little bit of everything this season.
“Peyton is our best scorer and he is also our biggest guy,” Wood said of his leader. “He will probably have to play out of position a lot this season. He will play the five some, but that is OK. He is a big strong kid who knows his role and we will lean heavily on him this season.”
Other top players for the Panthers will be fellow seniors Ragar Plunkett, Laithan Sublette, Landon Lucas and Nick Mudd.
Wood said although they are all guards, they each bring something different to the team.
“Ragar saw a lot of the floor last year and is probably more of our vocal leader,” the Panthers coach said. “Laithan is a steady shooter and one of our best passers. Landon is one of our best perimeter shooters by far. Nick brings back some varsity experience and brings that leadership role to the team.”
Rounding out the Panthers projected varsity lineup will be juniors Peyton Abbott, Bill Nunnelly and Ragar McKinney as well as freshman Jayden Durst.
“Peyton Abbott is one of our best defenders,” Wood said. “Ragar (McKinney) is a well-rounded player and does a good job defensively and Bill Nunnelly is one of our best ball handlers and we look for him to be one of our best defenders with all the quickness he has.”
Durst is a transfer into Palmyra, and Wood said the freshman is “versatile and can score from anywhere on the floor.”
Abe Haerr and Spencer Locke are two players who will start on the junior varsity team, but Wood expects to possibly see some time at the varsity level this season.
“Abe is a 6-4 freshman and is pretty raw but he plays extremely hard and if he learns how to finish around the bucket he is going to be a nice addition for us,” the Panthers coach said. “And Spencer is just a very heads up player who knows his limitations. He doesn’t try and do too much.”
Wood mentioned with all the guards he has at his disposal this season, they will be a different team with how they attack opponents.
“It will be a completely different tempo for us this year,” the Panthers coach said. “Last year we had more size and wanted to slow the game down. This year we are going to want to apply more pressure on the ball, and turn our defense into transition offense and get some easy buckets.”
Wood also noted he has already noticed vast improvements in one area from last season.
“It’s a night and day difference with our ball handling skills this season,” the coach said. “We played hard last year but we just didn’t possess good ball handling skills. I think with that ability this season, it is going to open up a lot of other things for us this year.”
As for expectations this season, Wood mentioned conference and district titles are always goals they want to strive toward.
“We want to compete for a conference and district championship,” he said. “We know we will have to play extremely well and play much more consistent, but I have been seeing more and more of that early on this season. This is a player-led team who just wants to help each other out and be the best they can be.
“They bring a lot of energy to the floor each day and I think it’s going to be fun watching them compete this season.”
The Panthers open their season Nov. 28 when they play host to Mark Twain.