June 29, 2016

Partly sunny

Buckeye shoots for PAC championship

Buckeye girls basketball coach Connie Rummell didn’t take long to coin a catch phrase for her team this year: “The best team you’ve never heard of … yet.”

“We’re hoping to surprise some people and maybe have a tournament run again,” said Rummell, whose 2004-05 unit advanced to regionals.

If the Bucks and Rummell, who said there’s “no reason whatsoever” her squad can’t win the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division, make that run, they will have to do it without 6-foot-3 center Marah Farage, who decided to stick to one sport on the court — volleyball.

The tall and athletic Farage, whose sister, Serena, plays hoops for Baldwin-Wallace College, averaged just 4.3 points off the bench as a freshman. Her impressive 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks will be tough to make up, but Rummell isn’t too concerned.

“We adapted to that in the summertime, so it wasn’t a big surprise that all of a sudden she didn’t come out,” said Rummell, whose team finished 9-12 overall and 9-4 in the PAC a year ago. “We wish her luck. All the girls are still friends with her, but our adaptation is pretty much a combined effort.”

Rummell revamped her style and stressed offensive balance to fit the talents of her young team last season. Though Farage’s defensive presence will be missed, there’s still pieces to work with.

“We are excited to get the season started with a great group of solid players that love playing together,” Rummell said. “Our team chemistry will dictate our success.”

Senior Kristen Hare (5-8, 4.5 ppg) and junior Kelsey Knoll (5-10, 4.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) — Medina County’s top scorer in girls soccer — will operate in the post.

The Bucks’ top offensive returnees are seniors Jessie Hall and Sylvia Stybor, who were the leading scorers from a year ago.

Hall (5-6, team-high 8.4 ppg) is arguably the most athletic player on the squad and will see time outside, while Stybor (5-4, 7.4 ppg) led Buckeye with 24 daggers from beyond the arc and 34 free throws.

The only monkey wrench is the Bucks will be without Stybor’s services for almost half the season due to an ACL injury.

“Sylvia’s just counting the days, the hours and the minutes,” Rummell said.

The fifth starter will be Meghan Joyce (5-4, jr.), Allison Urbanic (5-6, sr.) or Erika Urbanic (5-7, so.).

Rummell likes her initial starting five and either Joyce or an Urbanic off the bench, but depth is a concern. Jessi Arena (G/F, jr.) will round out the top eight players.

“Our balance has to be our core,” Rummell said. “For us to go deep right now, it won’t happen the first half of the year.”

If the PAC Stars title and the tournament run don’t happen, you can bet on one thing: Buckeye will have no shortage of laughs.

“They have fun, and I think in a long basketball season you’ve got to have fun,” Rummell said. “These kids really feed off each other.”

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.