Panthers seek success in Southside Classic

By ROBERT CHALUPNY

For the Call

The Mehlville Senior High School girls’ basketball team started the 2011-2012 season on a down but not unexpected note as the Panthers fell to powerhouse Cor Jesu 56-20 last week.

The Panthers will be looking to gain some early season momentum as they try to do some damage in the Southside Classic Tournament this week. Mehlville was scheduled to tip off against St. Elizabeth Academy Monday afternoon — after the Call went to press.

Mehlville opened the 2010-2011 season in similar fashion, falling to Cor Jesu. But the Panthers then rolled through the tournament, beating St. Elizabeth, Notre Dame and Lutheran South to take first place in the early season classic.

The Panthers spent the preseason finding new ways to score points after losing standout Chanese Washington, a four-year starter, to graduation.

Mehlville is led by head coach Laura Bishop, who is entering her sixth season.

The Panthers seek to improve over last year’s 11-17 record and hope to build on some of their end-of-season momentum.

“We came out really strong in the beginning, then we kind of hit a downhill slope and then we ended a little bit stronger,” Bishop said of last season.

Bishop told the Call she was optimistic about her players as they are more versatile this year.

“We are much more well-rounded than we have been in the past,” she said. “So I just want them to compete against themselves and get better. That’s all I want — compete every game, come out and play hard every game.

“I think we can win some games if we do that. If they all play as a team, we fill every position. We’ve just got to make sure we can fill it for 32 minutes.”

Bishop is looking for leadership from her seniors and returning starters from last season, including Mandy Fox, Allison Johnson and Sierra Grey, to name a few.

Team unity will be one of the keys to success for the Panthers this season, according to Bishop.

“The biggest strength I would say is we isn’t one person that everyone is looking to take over. Everybody trusts each other the same and everybody is ready to step up in their individual roles. So I would say that’s a huge strength for us.”

One obstacle Mehlville will need to overcome is its lack of height.

“Our size — we’re not very big, so that is something we are going to have to overcome, especially in the post. We don’t have a lot of height,” Bishop said.