Young Panthers Work Hard To Overcome Adversity

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In 18 years of coaching high school basketball Drew Logan has run into a lot of different obstacles, but nothing has been thrown at him like the past year has delivered. 

In his tenth year at the helm of the Litchfield High School boys basketball program, Coach Logan has been handed a yo-yo of a preseason, with COVID-19 ravaged on-again, off-again practices. 

Once the Purple Panthers were fully engaged in practice, another obstacle would be handed to this year’s squad, as they would be shut down for two weeks after six days of practice. 

After the two-week layoff the Purple Panthers would finally get the chance to hit the hardwood once again as a team. Again another obstacle would be handed out, this time by Mother Nature. Going into tomorrow’s night season opener against the Staunton Bulldogs, Litchfield was looking to have three practices to prepare, but the snowy weather decided to make that chore complicated. 

Even with all the hardships, the Purple Panthers will be ready to compete and play some basketball on Feb. 19. 

So far this season the Purple Panthers have used the battle cry of being able to adapt to the changes they will inevitably see. 

As the preseason has rolled on, the Litchfield squad has been able to adapt to the changes handed to them due to the leadership roles of their seniors. Blake McGill, Chase Hires and Jordan Harris have helped take the bull by the horns this preseason and steer the Purple Panthers in the right direction. 

McGill, one of two returning starters for the Purple Panthers, has made a name for himself on the defensive side of the court. Even though the defensive end has been McGill’s staple, he began to turn heads on offense last season. He would finish third in scoring last season with 233 points. 

Hires has used his final preseason to make a statement as he has shown a lot of improvements throughout the practices. His determination will help make an impact on both ends of the court. 

Jordan Harris, who has had a lot thrown at him, is battling through an early season injury. Harris has determined not to allow that injury to set him back as he looks to contribute on both ends.

Along with McGill, the Purple Panthers will have the services of junior Blaine Stewart back on the hardwood. Stewart, who seems to have been in a Purple Panther uniform for longer than his three years, will handle a lot of the ball handling duties while also looking to pick up where he left off scoring last season. 

Stewart would lead the 2019-2020 Purple Panthers with 294 total points, including 56 three-point baskets. 

He will not be the only junior on the court as Emiliano McGill and Jeremiah Yakana will look to contribute this season. McGill, who follows his defense-minded older brother, has always been a strong defender and will look to add to the offense. Yakana keeps improving as a high school player and will compete for playing time at the varsity level.

With only 542 total points returning of the 1,318 total points scored last season, the Purple Panthers will turn to their younger players to gain some high school experience quickly. 

Four sophomores and 12 freshman will need to fill some big shoes sooner rather than later for the Purple Panthers and Coach Logan has been impressed with the younger members of the squad. 

“We are a young team and have been impressed early in the season with the progress and overall ability of the younger players,” said Logan. 

Litchfield will turn to their sophomores for considerable varsity time. Clayton Bishop, Nate Fetter, Bryce Hires and Gavin Thimsen will be called on to step into big roles at the varsity level. 

The four sophomores each carry a special talent that will help the Purple Panthers be successful this season. Hires has a motor that never ends and never gets outworked. Thimsen has continued to make solid strides on both ends of the floor. Fetter has been a solid defender and has been the improvements on the offensive side of the court that has turned the coaching staff’s heads. Bishop, the third of Kyle and Nikki Bishop’s sons to pass through the system in the last few years, has shown the ability to score early in the season and contribute on the defensive side of the court.

With the varsity numbers being young, the junior varsity will see a lot of freshmen getting early action at that level. Carson Saathoff, Jace Stewart, Keenan Powell, AJ Odle, and Tate Dobrinich look to be the backbone of the junior varsity as these individuals also wrap up the varsity roster. 

Even though 16 of the 21 players on the roster are freshman and sophomore, Coach Logan has seen a lot of promise heading into the season. With the lack of practices to prepare, the Purple Panthers will turn to these younger players to be ready to step up at a moment’s notice to fill spots on the JV and varsity levels. 

Coach Logan has discussed many things throughout the preseason, but one of the biggest is having his players be able to adapt to the changes the Purple Panthers will inevitably see. 

No matter what happens on the scoreboard this season, the biggest obstacle has already been tackled as these young men will be able to participate in the game of basketball. 

“At this point we are just thankful we are going to get the chance to play. We will do a lot of learning and adjusting on the fly, but the fact that we get the opportunity to play is a huge success,” said Coach Logan, whose team will have five games in eight days to begin the season.

One of four Litchfield  coaches with 100 or more wins, Coach Logan has always  got the best out of his players. In a year of changes, difficulties, adjustments and uncertainties, the one thing that is for sure is that fans will experience the never-give-up attitude of the Purple Panthers and a hard-fought ball game. The 2021 Purple Panthers will show that working hard, which takes no talent, will get the results.

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