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Valuska brings experience, familiarity to Panthers bench

The 2021-22 Buckeye Local Panthers - Andrew Grimm

CONNORVILLE — Tom Valuska has come on as Buckeye Local’s third head coach of the girls basketball program in three years. After a seven-year stretch by Tom Figurski, the Lady Panthers were led by Jeff Stone last season.

In most cases, a coaching carousel spells trouble, but with Valuska, the program will be in good hands. Though a veteran in coaching, this will be his first term leading a varsity squad, but the squad he takes over are no strangers to him.

“I’ve been involved with Buckeye Local girls basketball for nine years now,” the new court boss pointed out. “From elementary to junior high to high school, I have spent a lot of time coaching these same girls and know them and the program very well.”

Valuska has also coached in various AAU programs, so his experience and knowledge should be a plus to a program trying to rebound from a couple down seasons. He returns three seniors from a squad that finished at 4-15 last season.

Buckeye’s graduation losses from a year ago were minimal. Megan Valuska, Hannah Crain and Landyn Walker are gone and will leave a hole in the Panther lineup that the new coach will need to fill.

“My goal is to bring stability to the Buckeye Local program and really focus on building a program that returns the pride back to girls basketball at our school,” Valuska said. “I see this as a year-round process to engage and retain the players that want to be a part of something special.”

Of his returners, only one is a returning starter from last season’s team. His junior group were BMAC champions as freshmen and one of those players earned a starting spot last year as a sophomore. Emily Valuska will bring leadership and experience to a team that will be looking for both.

“We have a couple of seniors in the starting lineup and also some young talent that will be starting alongside them,” he added. “I see the future as being very positive as we continue to push basketball IQ and the will to compete with our players.”

While Valuska is optimistic for the future of Buckeye Local basketball, he sees an opportunity in the coming season to develop a team very capable of winning against a competitive schedule.

“Our overall numbers are down, but our bench while young is deep in talent,” he added, referring to a roster that totals just 15 players.

Buckeye’s roster includes three seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen. The senior contingent features two starters in Adrianna Blazeski and Mariah Pelkey. Also in the mix is senior Kassidy George.

Emily Valuska heads a good junior group that includes Rylee Glover, Kaydence Kinyo and Carly Long. This is a group that will contribute heavily to the Panther attack.

Although a short list of sophomores, Valuska has already inserted two of those players into the starting lineup. Pamela Kandrach and Brynn McKeever are slotted as starters while Samantha Ankrom and Nyja Short will see plenty of floor time.

Valuska’s four freshmen include Alyssa Dailey, Makayla Faulkner, Julissa Green and Maddy Roset. This quartet will be called on during the season to fill some spots that will surely arise.

Buckeye’s staff also brings experience as Valuska will have Amanda Polanski as his varsity assistant and Gary Dulkowski as the jayvee coach.

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