Head coach Greg Heath entered the 2021-2022 campaign looking to replace four starters from a season ago, a task in itself. To help get the ball in motion, Heath will and has put the foundation of his rebuild on senior Bret Wingard who was a 2nd team all-KSAC selection. Wingard averaged 12 points per game as a junior. At 6-2 Wingard is versatile style player who can post up or play the perimeter. So far this season, Wingard has consistently been one of the top players in District IX just short of averaging a double-double with 17 points per game and 9 rebounds per game.
In support of Wingard, 5’-9" Senior, Zander McHenry averages 9 points per game to go along with 4 steals per game.5’-11" Jr., Tyler Albright also averages 9 points per game and leads the team in assists spreading the ball around.
Finding a supporting cast as the season has progressed has been on the worksheet for Heath. “Depth has been an issue but we have gradually been working some of our underclassmen into the rotation.” Drew Slaugenhaupt, Rayce Weaver, Haden Foster, Brett English and Drew Keth has given us some valuable minutes off the bench
For the Panthers, putting a string of wins together early in the season was important in getting off in the right direction but something that just didn’t happen, a reflection on their 2-6 start. The Panthers opened the season with a 54-39 win against Cochranton but sandwiched in two losses to Dubois and Karns City. Two games in which the Panthers could only muster up 36 points total.
Keystone got back in the win column with a nice comeback win against Moniteau in a game in which the Panthers found themselves down fifteen points and headed for a third consecutive loss. The Panthers however used a 20-2 run in the fourth quarter to etch the win. (47-44). Bret Wingard scored 26 points and recorded 10 rebounds in the win. Sr., Zander McHenry chipped in with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
In a key KSAC league game against C-L on December 21st, the Panthers lost a close 59-53 contest.
The weather and reschedules had an impact on their court time. The Panthers went 16 days without playing a game in a stretch from Dec. 28th to January 13th.
The Panthers who started the season 2-6 have made significant improvement in the back half of the season. “We have improved a great deal, finishing strong and becoming playoff eligible. Our improvement has been fueled by our defense, stated Heath. The Panthers are averaging 17 turnovers a game and limiting the opposing team to an average of 43 points per game. Heath is quick to give praise to McHenry, Albright and 6’-3" Jr., Forward, Cole Henry who is averaging 7 rebounds per game on the defensive side of the ball. 5’-10", senior Ian Keth also has turned in some solid defensive play.
With the regular season games ending last week, the Panthers finished 11-11 overall and 4-6 in a very competitive KSAC Large School Conference which features Redbank, Karns City and C-L.
The Panthers almost pulled the upset on Feb. 12th at home against league leader Redbank (45-40). The Panthers were tied at 40 with 1:04 left in the game. Keystone was led in scoring by 5’-9" Zander McHenry who bucketed 16 points. McHenry was supported by Wingard who netted 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Keystone rebounded on Valentine’s Day with a 48-42 win at Brockway. Wingard led the pace with 18 points and jr.’s, Tyler Albright and Cole Henry each with 11 for Keystone.
With the much improved play in the second half of the season, the Panthers have fought their way back into playoff contention.
“For us to have success in the playoffs we must continue our strong defensive play and continue to improve our ball movement and player movement on offense. This should help to give us quality shot selection”, stated head coach Greg Heath.
Keystone will play Clarion Limestone on Feb. 23rd at 7 pm at C-L in the first round of the District IX AA playoffs.
The winner will advance to play top seeded Redbank Valley on March 1, 2022.
Other games in the District IX AA playoffs in the first round include: Smethport at Ridgway and Coudersport at Karns City with a game time start of 7:00 PM on Feb. 23rd.
Get out and show your support.