By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The PikeView Lady Panthers made history in the 2011-12 basketball season, rolling to an 18-10 record and advancing to the West Virginia Class AA semifinals. It was the first trip by the Lady Panthers to the state semifinals. Along the way PikeView got past their long-time nemesis, Summers County.
This season the Lady Panthers are a young group of cubs with only one senior, who is also the only returning starter from last year’s team, Hope Nester.
“She (Hope) is going to have to be the leader out there on the court and I’m hoping that everybody will gel,” said PikeView head coach Karen Miller.
While Nester is the lone returning starter, several girls on the roster have dressed and played with the varsity squad, but their level of experience varies. Laura Hill and Lyndsey Hatfield are two players who started at times during the 2011-12 campaign and will be on the court when the Lady Panthers open the regular season at Shady Spring, Monday night.
“Of the 12 girls on varsity, 10 of those girls played some varsity last year, have some varsity experience, but the difference, Hope, Laura and Lyndsey are the only ones that really got a lot of time,” Miller said. “Courtney (White) came in and played a little bit for us and Savanah Runion came in and played some.”
The highlight of last season for PikeView was making the state tournament for the first time, but in order to do that the Lady Panthers had to get past four-time defending state champion Summers County, which occurred in the regionals and on the Lady Bobcats’ home court.
“I think a lot about the Summers County game,” Miller said. “We asked the kids to play four good quarters and they did everything we asked them to do. Summers County, they have an excellent program, and to beat a quality team at Summers County, it was just awesome and the girls worked hard for that.
“I still think about that all the time, it’s just a great feeling and I’m hoping we can head back that way, but it’s going to be tough. But we’ve got to work hard in practice and improve throughout, every game.”
It will be a tough road for PikeView as their schedule includes nine Class AA teams including defending state champion Westside, runner-up Scott, Summers County, James Monroe and Bluefield. The Lady Panthers will tip-off against four AAA teams, Shady Spring, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson and Spring Valley.
“We’re a young team and our goal is in practice every day to get better,” Miller said. “With the teams that we’re playing this year we’re hoping that through all the games, if we can improve every game, hopefully that would prepare us for the post-season.”