Cougar girls looking for fifth straight state berth

These seniors and returning letter-winners will provide a solid core for the Centre girls? basketball team this season:?front row (from left) Kristin Vinduska, Allison Basore, Abigail Svoboda, Carissa Shields; (back row)?Summer Espinoza, Shelby Pankratz, Whitney Gutsch.
These seniors and returning letter-winners will provide a solid core for the Centre girls? basketball team this season:?front row (from left) Kristin Vinduska, Allison Basore, Abigail Svoboda, Carissa Shields; (back row)?Summer Espinoza, Shelby Pankratz, Whitney Gutsch.

The Centre girls? basketball team will look to make a fifth-consecutive trip to the state tournament this season under the direction of seventh-year coach Alan Stahlecker.

The Cougars went 22-4 a year ago, finishing third at the Class 1A, Division I state tournament by defeating St. Paul. It was the first state hardware earned by a Centre girls? team since 1973.

This year?s squad looks to return to state without the aid of last year?s leading scorer, Shelby Makovec, who is one of six seniors to have graduated from the team. Makovec averaged more than 19 points per game.

Centre also lost two foreign exchange students, including starting center Lotti Benning.

Leading the Cougars this season will be two returning starters. Allison Basore started at post. The 5-foot, 10-inch senior averaged 4.7 points and 5.5 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field a year ago.

Junior Shelby Pankratz (5-7) returns with starting experience at guard. She was the team?s second leading scorer at 7.2 points per game. She also averaged 1.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals and was a first-team, all-Wheat State League selection.

Additional returning letter-winners include senior guard Abigail Svoboda (5-7) and junior forward/wing Summer Espinoza (5-8), who averaged 3.9 points and 4.5 rebounds a year ago.

Newcomers who may be called upon to contribute this season include senior Whitney Gutsch (5-10 post); junior Katie Marler (5-6 guard, wing); and sophomores Kate Basore (5-9 forward, post) and Emily Schle?sener (5-7 guard, wing).

?While we don?t return a lot of players, the ones that return have gained high-level experience and expectations by virtue of four straight trips to the state tournament,? Stahlecker said. ?We will need our new players to develop to the varsity level quickly, and need to avoid injuries as I don?t anticipate that our depth is great.?

Stahlecker said he expects a strength of this year?s team to be its inside play.

?We will need consistent scorers to step up and take the lead,? he said.

The Cougars will open the season Friday at Central Christian. Centre?s home-opener will be Dec. 15 against Canton-Galva.