Coach Ty Crawmer's personnel dictates that the Licking Valley High School girls basketball team will be a study in contrasts.

Coach Ty Crawmer's personnel dictates that the Licking Valley High School girls basketball team will be a study in contrasts.

The Panthers, who finished 13-9 overall a year ago and were runners-up in the MSL-Ohio Division for a third consecutive season at 11-3, will push the issue offensively when they can. At the same time, more patience will be needed when the tempo slows.

"Sometimes in the past we haven't always identified (correctly) when we should be doing which," said Crawmer, whose team lost a pair of key players in graduates Krystal Stoneking (6-foot post player) and Britainy Felumlee (point guard). "Looking at the girls we have now I think we'll get out and run a little more, but once we get into a set offense we have to be more patient and wait for the right opportunities."

Replacing Stoneking, who spurned a couple of Division I college scholarship offers to play at NAIA Indiana Wesleyan, will be a considerable challenge. She made first-team all-district in Division II after averaging 19 points and 8.8 rebounds with 42 total blocked shots.

"We'll be stressing defense a little more without a big gun on offense," said Crawmer, whose team opens Saturday against Zanesville West Muskingum as the first test in improving on last year's 2-6 non-league record, which included a 61-52 loss to Big Walnut in the second round of the district tournament.  "We lost a great one in Krystal and a four-year letterman with Britainy."

Senior Brooke Nethers and junior Mackenzie Hopkins are expected to run the offense, and both also will be counted on for their defensive skills on the perimeter. The point guard of the future appears to be sophomore Hanna Dodson, who has struggled with an ankle injury in preseason. Paige John, a 6-1 sophomore, is among the young post players being developed.

"She's raw right now but can run the floor," Crawmer said of John. "Krystal came a long way her last three years here, too."

The top scoring threat may be senior guard Karoline Wilson, who averaged 11.6 points a year ago with good shooting range. An honorable-mention all-district pick, she scored 20 or more points five times, including three consecutive games near midseason. Senior Stephanie Cooperrider, who can play guard or forward, came on late last season and averaged five points.

Also look for 5-8 senior Kasi Weiner in the post and sophomore Morgan Overbey, who can play guard or forward. The fifth senior is guard Ashley Rutherford.

The MSL-Ohio opener is Dec. 2 at defending champion Bexley (12-2), and that game will be the opener as well if the football team makes it to Saturday's state final.

"Heath's a strong favorite with (injured point guard Megan) White back," Crawmer said of his expectations for the league. "But Bexley and Newark Catholic should be right there, too. Bexley still has (first-team all-district post player Ashley Dennis), even though we'd heard she was going to Pickerington Central with her dad (assisting former Bexley coach Wade Brockwell with the Tigers).

"People might not be expecting as much from us but I think we'll surprise some of them."