It was the basketball season that Tom Figurski had planned for just a few weeks ago. He was set to be settled in as a Buckeye Local assistant about now. Of course, that all changed in a course of a few days in late October.
Just a week away from the official start of practice, Figurski found himself in the driver's seat as the new head coach of the Lady Panthers. Former Panther boys basketball coach, Joel Nau was hired in April to take over for Willie Luther, the Buckeye coach the past seven seasons.
Nau abruptly stepped down during the second week of October and Figurski was selected at that time to fill the void on the Lady Panther bench.
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
PICTURED IS the 2013-14 Buckeye Local girls basketball team. Sitting, from left, are Rachel Zeroski, Chanler Long, Ashley Taylor and Carly Banal. Middle row, from left, are Lauren Swiger, Hunter Johnson, Kierstyn Czuchran, Becky Zeroski and Kala Petrella. Back row, from left, are assistant coach Bob Czuchran, Emily Long, Karlee Leonard, Morgan Fedorko, head coach Tom Figurski and assistant coach Charlie Nest.
"I would like to thank the Board of Education, Mr. Miller, Mr. Sudvary and Mr. Jones for their confidence in me to run the program," Figurski said in assuming the new position.
Of course, Figurski is no stranger to the basketball court. He has served as an assistant in the Buckeye Local system for quite some time and was an outstanding player in his high school days playing at Buckeye West. He was a member of a few very successful teams at West.
Luther's departure after last season left the Buckeye Local school board with a coaching void. Luther had coached at Buckeye for seven years. His teams were plagued with injuries to key players that seemed to hold back a potential good program. His team last season was no different finishing at 4-17.
Buckeye lost four talented and veteran players from last year's squad including four-year letter winner Kayla Fillipovich. She returned last season as the team's leading scorer and rebounder, but saw her senior year hampered by a serious knee injury.
Also gone from last year's team are Amy Balk, Alexis Valuska and Danielle Smith. This trio also lettered as juniors.
This season's Lady Panther varsity roster will feature four seniors, four juniors and three sophomores. The senior contingent is paced by 5 ft. 9 forward Morgan Fedorko, a two-year letter winner who finished as one of the squad's top scorers and rebounders.
Fedorko will get a lot of help from her classmates that include 5-2 guard Ashley Taylor, 5-7 forward Karlee Leonard and 5-9 post Chanler Long. This group provides a great deal of experience and leadership that should be a key element in the Lady Panther successes this year.
Figurski is fortunate to have a talented junior group that will play a major part in this season's play as well as the following year. That group is headed by 5-9 guard Lauren Swiger, the team's top scorer and a highly-respected player throughout the Ohio Valley. Swiger has been a starter since her freshman year.
Adding to the junior talent are 5-8 post Kierstyn Czuchran, 5-3 guard Carly Banal and 5-8 forward Kayla Petrella. The trio brings with them a large amount of talent that shows in their versatility.
Buckeye's three sophomores with the varsity are another group that should contribute a great deal. The young trio has experience behind them as well and they include 5-2 guard Becky Zeroski, 5-6 forward Rachel Zeroski and 5-5 forward Hunter Johnson.
"I'm really excited about this year," Figurski said about his 2013-14 Lady Panthers. "The ladies have been working really hard this year as we have asked them to do some different things when it comes to their conditioning. I really believe that this will help with our overall strength and endurance and allow us to play the type of basketball we will need to play to win ball games."
"Overall from freshmen to seniors, I think this is one of the most athletic teams Buckeye has had since I have been coaching. We should be able to score and defend from the post, on the drive and from beyond the three point arc," the new Lady Panther court mentor said.
"We will be looking for our scoring to come from every player," he said. "Of course, we will expect more from some players than others, but I can see the team having a balanced scoring approach in almost every game and that will be one of our strengths."
"Defensively and with our conditioning, we will be able to apply pressure all over the court," he added.
Buckeye has been fortunate to have large numbers out for basketball this year and with that Figurski will have numbers with the jayvee team as well.
Six sophomores will open the season with the jayvee squad including 5-4 guard Rachel Vince, 5-7 post Kate Torok, 5-7 post Kylee Torok, 5-10 post Maddie Doyle, 5-4 guard Cierra Arnett and 5-4 guard Adrienne Yanssens.
Figurski has six freshmen suiting up with the jayvees that will see plenty of action. That group includes 5-2 guard Danielle Dvorcek, 5-4 guard Lexee Swiger, 5-4 guard Shanon Good, 5-5 guard Shelby Gorlock, 5-7 post Emily Fox and 5-4 forward Logan Cunningham.
Figurski also has a staff that brings a lot to the game. His assistants include Charie Nest, former Buckeye Local standout Emily Long and Bob Czuchran. Handling the junior high are Gary Dulkowski and Luke Fabry.
Buckeye's schedule will see a slight change this season. The Lady Panthers added Bridgeport for two games to their schedule. The Lady Bulldogs will replace Weir on the slate.