When the Boardman girls basketball team takes the court for their season opener on November 27, there will be one very noticeable piece missing.
For the first time in 31 years Ron Moschella will not be the Boardman bench boss to start a season. Moschella resigned during last season due to the health concerns (he subsequently took the girls head coaching job at Columbiana) and was replaced by assistant Jeff Hammerton. Hammerton may never replace the 546 wins Moschella left behind in Boardman, nor the numerous league titles, district championships or state Final Four appearances. One thing the new coach can do, however, is carve his own niche into the bench supporting the Boardman ladies.
"Taking over for coach Moschella will be a huge challenge," wrote Hammerton in an email. "He is arguably the best basketball coach in the Mahoning Valley. I have to remember that I cannot be him. I have to be myself and coach a style that works for me."
Emily Gibbs is the lone senior for the 2012-2013 Lady Spartans. Emily will bring leadership to the court from her position as center. After graduation, Emily plans on attending Bowling Green University to study psychology with a goal of helping those with addictions.
Whatever style the Lady Spartans used last season certainly wasn't working. Boardman had one of its worst seasons in recent memory and most of that was due to a lack of experience. Unfortunately, there aren't many older girls on this year's roster either, but the girls who do return at least have some varsity minutes under their belts.
"We are a young team again this year," Hammerton said. "Our young girls were forced to play a lot last year as sophomores so hopefully that year of experience will pay off this year as juniors."
The brightest star on the Spartans is their lone senior Emily Gibbs. Coach Hammerton will be hammering the ball to Gibbs a lot because she possesses a great knack for scoring. She averaged 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in her junior year and was paid off for her efforts with a second team All Federal League honor. Even more will be expected of Emily as a senior.
"We will need similar or even better numbers from her this season," Hammerton said frankly.
Fiver other Spartans will be back to help Hammerton round out his front line rotation. Those girls are Jenna Kuczek, Kelly Tomcsanyi, Megan Volosin, Briana Fonderlin and Jada Redd, Also getting a shot to prove their varsity worth will be a trio of very unexperienced young ladies in junior Anna Patoray and freshmen Krista Johnson and Marisa Hanna. Turning that triumvirate into suitable subs for the Spartans' starting five will be one of the challenges for Hammerton this year.
"Our biggest weakness right now is that we do not have a bench with a lot of experience," said the coach. "Hopefully midway through the season our young girls grow up quickly to provide that necessary depth."
Midway through the season, however, may be too late for the Lady Spartans to show signs of maturity. Five of Boardman's games in December are against Federal League foes. The Federal League is always demanding and not one of those conference cousins is going to show mercy or wait around for these green Spartans to mature. Still, coach Hammerton insisted that his girls would be ready to compete immediately.
"My expectations is that we will be vastly improved from last year's four win team," Hammerton said. "The girls have been working very hard and we are playing at a faster pace than last year which should make for an entertaining brand of basketball."
If the new coach and the new players mesh well in Boardman then the 2012-2013 Lady Spartans may become winners as well as entertainers.