LP Burris Jolloff Talarico

From left, Sophie Burris, Chloe Jolloff and Francesca Talarico hope to be key contributors for the Lakewood Park Christian girls basketball team this season.

AUBURN — Certain realities come with a small roster, but a lack of enthusiasm isn’t one of them for the Lakewood Park Christian girls team.

“I could not be more excited,” fourth-year coach Amy Bartkowiak said. “Within the small group we have, there’s talent. I’m super happy with the talent we have, the desire, the drive, the unity we are building.”

The Panthers return two scorers who averaged in double figures for last season’s 8-13 squad, Taylor Gerke and Chloe Jolloff.

They’ll have a small, fast lineup this year and will have to attack opponents accordingly.

“We have to change everything offensively,” Bartkowiak said. “We have a guard team, we have no post players. We have to change how our offense works.

“Some of our guards will have to dip down in the post defensively. I think we’ll be fine with all of that, with the talent and the basketball IQ that we have.”

The short bench will likely mean very little full-court pressure this season, but the Panthers hope to be unpleasant to play against in the half court.

“Hopefully we’re going to be more scrappy this year and have more intensity,” Bartkowiak said. “We want to communicate better on the floor, which makes us a better group when we’re acting as a unit.

“What I always look for in players is that all-out effort, diving on the floor, they leave everything out there. That’s what we have this year.”

The small group may make for a tighter bond among the Panther players.

“We’re developing that bond,” Bartkowiak said. “We get together as a team. They love one another. That’s a great thing to have as a coach, to have the girls be that close together.

“It’s been really good. They’re ready to go, they’re happy. Even during our really hard training, they were upbeat.”

Bartkowiak hopes the Panthers can continue to believe in themselves through the grind of the long schedule.

“Overall confidence (will be important),” Bartkowiak said. “They have the skill level. They have what it takes to do a lot of great things this year.

“I’m not saying they don’t have confidence, but just to maintain that over a long season with such a small bench.”

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