Girls basketball teams in Class AAA Section 1 will have a tough time matching Mars Area's height and scoring power, but they will have an impossible time matching their experience.
The Planets only graduated two seniors from last season's team that went 10-2 in the section. There are three all-section players returning in the section and Mars has two, 5-foot-9 junior point guard Sara Getsy and 5-11 junior forward Ali Goetz.
Getsy and Goetz averaged 13 and 13.4 points per game last season, respectively.
They also return 5-10 junior guard/forward Jessica Bunner.
Getsy, Goetz and Bunner are all three-year starters who started as freshmen.
"Those three give us a nucleus, a calmness and organization on the floor," Mars coach Tony Howard said. "Their experience means a lot. They have been through everything, they have all been in there. We have a very similar schedule to last year."
That schedule started with the Blackhawk tipoff tournament last weekend where the Planets (1-2) split a pair of games -- a 46-41 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic the first night and a 52-27 rout of Beaver Falls in the consolation game -- and continued with scheduled non-section games at Keystone Oaks on Monday, a tough 59-57 loss, and at Pine-Richland on Wednesday.
Mars finished second to Hampton last season in the section but the Planets did lead the section in scoring, averaging 50.8 points per game.
Getsy is one of the top point guards in Class AAA but Howard has confidence in Getsy and Bunner also handling the ball.
"We really put the ball in all their hands," Howard said. "Those three will be running and setting up their offenses. We are pretty confident with any of them in regard to bringing the ball up [the court] and running it. In the past we felt that we had to have the ball in a certain person's hands."
When Goetz emerged as a starter in her freshman season, she was strictly a post player but her game has progressed to the point where she can handle the ball and will play a majority of the game around the perimeter when on offense.
"She has morphed into a two-way player," Howard said.
The presence of 6-1 senior forward Daniella Paras and 6-foot sophomore Elise Sheehy has enabled Goetz to play around the perimeter more.
Daniella's younger sister, sophomore Ellysa Paras, is a guard who started a handful of games last season. She will be in the mix at the two-guard spot along with Nicole McCloud.
"We had a great offseason. We won a lot of basketball games in the spring, summer and fall," Howard said. "I think the biggest thing is they believe that they can win the section title this year."
Two years ago when Getsy, Goetz and Bunner were freshmen, Mars shared the section title with Hampton.
"They came in as freshmen, we worked hard and things fell our way," Howard said.
Hampton finished 12-0 in section play last season and beat Mars by an average of 19 points per game in their two section meetings.
"The big difference this year I see is their focus," Howard said. "Hampton is always Hampton, they are always well coached, always have decent size and they play the game, they play it right, it is really hard to score on them.
"We will talk about that goal of winning the section, they know it is not a given. They are not overconfident but I see that they believe."