Pat Crampsie wasn't happy with last year's boys basketball season and he's not afraid to admit it.
Crampsie, who is in his 12th year as head coach of the Panthers, said he was disappointed with his team's defense, it's record, and the fact that it didn't contend for a district playoff berth.
One thing Crampsie was happy about, however, was that his team was playing its best ball at the end of the season, winning four of its last seven games, including a season-ending victory over playoff-bound Tamaqua.
That strong finish, combined with an off-season that has Crampsie raving, should spell improvement for 2013-14 Panthers.
"I haven't had a group that worked harder between April and November," said Crampsie about this year's team. "Summer league games, workouts, open gyms ... we've had tremedous turnouts for all of those things.
"When you combine the off-season work ethic we had with the improvement we showed late in the season, it creates some optimicism heading into the this year."
After making the District 11 playoffs in three of the previous four years, Panther Valley struggled to a 6-16 finish a season ago. In the process, the Panthers allowed 56.8 points a game defensively the second worst defensive average in the area and nearly nine points a game higher than the previous season.
"Last year was disappointing," said Crampsie. "I thought we had the program to a point where we would be a perennial district playoff contender.
"But you can't beat the type of teams we play in our league if you don't play good defense and last year, regardless of what defense we played, we didn't play it well."
Crampsie said that problem isn't going to be corrected with X's and O's.
"We need to bring a toughness and intensity to defense that we didn't have last year," he said.
Offensively, Panther Valley needs to replace almost 20 points a game that was lost due to graduation.
Fortunately, leading-scorer Jake Szczecina (12.9 ppg.) is one of four key returnees the Panthers have to build that offense around.
"Jake has developed into more than just a shooter. He is now a scorer," said Carmpsie. "He's going to be one of the better players in the Schuylkill League."
Szczecina will be joined in the starting line-up by three senior classmates Luke Stano, Kyle Ferryman and Jake Kusko who all saw starting time a year ago.
"All three of those kids can give us offensive production," said Crampsie. "Luke has a nice shot from both long and intermediate range, Kyle is a slasher who brings fire and intensity to our line-up, and Jake has a nice perimeter game as well."
The final starting spot will more than likely be filled by either Chad Dubosky or Ethan Vermillion. Charles Nase, Matt Hudicka and Cee Keo are also in the mix for spots in Crampsie's rotation while Pat Owens and freshman Anthony Miholick could also see playing time. Charles Moore, Michael Weng and Mike Horan round out the roster.
"I think we have a nice balance of of kids who can get to the basket and kids who can score from the perimeter," said Crampsie. "One thing we would like to do a little better this year than we've done in the past is create some opportunities in transition. We have some players who can run the court and we'd like to take advantage of that."
If the Panthers show the defensive improvement Crampsie wants and Szczecina can lead the way offensively like Crampsie expects, the 2013-14 Panthers could wipe away last season's disappointment.