Coming off of back-to-back successful seasons, the Princeton girls basketball team believes they have what it takes to compete for a district championship.
Finishing second in district last season, an improvement from third the season before, the Lady Panthers fell in the bi-district round of the state playoffs. This season, head coach Carla Denning thinks they can compete with almost any team in the area, and are ready to show what they’re capable of again.
“We want to keep that momentum going,” Denning said. “We have a few very important pieces from last season returning and some young girls that are putting in the work to be better and earn a role on the team.”
Princeton returns five players from 2021-22 season, including key contributors from last season Terrayah McCoy, Ariyanna Stephens and Mariah Hart. McCoy and Hart are both rising sophomores and impact players for the Lady Panthers, showing their talent in both basketball and track and field. Coach Denning wants them to be prepared for a bigger role this season.
“They’ve definitely got stronger in the weight room in the offseason,” Denning said. “I’ve been encouraging all of them to have a voice this offseason because they’ve earned it and they have taken to it well.”
With so many returning pieces, the Lady Panthers still just have two seniors on the varsity team. One of those is Stephens, who is the leader on the court for the Lady Panthers. The other is Kadence Weilbrenner, who returns from a lengthy injury last season.
“Our seniors are going to be leaders for us,” Denning said. “Kadence missed a lot of last season with a concussion and should be important this year. Ari has been with me since the beginning and I met her when I first got the job in April 2019 and got to know her as an eighth grader and she’s bought into the whole system. She and I think alike when it comes to the game of basketball.”
Another player to watch is Paula de la Torre, a foreign exchange student from Spain who will play just this season with Princeton. With so much returning talent in the fold, Princeton’s basketball program has shown vast improvement over the last few seasons and sees itself getting even better in the future years.
“These girls live basketball and are locked in all year round,” Denning said. “They all want to play at the next level and the middle school coaches do a great job and their club teams are all working together to make sure they have the skills, knowledge and rest they need to succeed and achieve their goals.”
For the full story, see this week’s issue of The Princeton Herald.