North returns four starters from the squad that finished 19-5 last winter leaving 10th-year head coach Paul Force excited and optimistic about the upcoming season.
The Rangers will suit up eight seniors, including Samantha Pirosko, the reigning Ohio Varsity Player of the Year and a third team All-Ohioan, providing Force with plenty of experience and talent to bid for the Western Reserve Conference championship and a lengthy postseason run.
“Expectations are high with eight seniors and coming off a 19-win season,” Force said. “We have a challenging schedule in and out of conference and I’m not concerned in what it leads to, as far as win-loss record, but I’d like to see us steadily improve through the season and put ourselves in a position to compete for the WRC title and potentially advance into the districts and give ourselves an opportunity to play for a district title. There are a lot of competitive teams out in the Perry District, so we know it won’t be easy, but we feel if we stay healthy and play to our potential, we could be right there with any of them.”
As a junior, Pirosko averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per contest while shooting 54-percent from the floor. She already has scored 1,000 points in her career and is closing in on the school’s all-time scoring record.
“Samantha is one of the top players in the area and her impressive conditioning level is a great complement to her skill set,” Force said. “She’s got great hands, footwork, can finish on both sides of the hoop and has expanded her ball handling and shooting skills this offseason. We are excited for what’s to come in her senior year.”
While Pirosko headlines North’s long list of returning starters, she won’t be an easy target for opposing defenses as the Rangers have several other all-conference players on the roster and a handful more who will make major contributions.
“We feel we have the system to play 8-9 girls and allow opportunities for multiple players to contribute on the offensive and defensive end,” Force said.
Sophomore wing Destiny Leo also earned all-conference and all-district honors after dropping 14 points per game with 6 rebounds and 2 assists per contest. She also drained 30-percent of her shots from behind the arc.
“Destiny brings a unique skill set to the team and she shows leadership beyond her years,” Force said. “She’s played a lot of ball and has a high basketball IQ to go with her ability.”
Senior wing Val Arnold and senior wing/post Anaunda Lyons both earned honorable mention All-WRC honors last season.
Arnold averaged 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game while hitting on 41-percent of her 3-point tries.
“Val is a glue-girl for our team,” Force said. “She can space the floor, defend the other team’s top scorer, make the right pass and always plays with good energy.”
Lyons scored 6 points per game but dominated on the glass with 8 rebounds per contest.
“Anaunda can rebound the basketball as well as any player I’ve ever coached,” Force said. “She’s added to her game and we believe she is one of the keys to our season as we know her ceiling is still in front of her as a player. We are looking forward to seeing what she can do this season on both ends of the floor.”
Junior Taylor Valaitis is projected to fill the hole at point guard.
She averaged 1 point and 2 rebounds per game last winter.
“Taylor is a two-way player,” Force said. “We are excited to watch her grow as she gets more time and experience.”
Senior wing Caitlin Stuart and juniors Allie Chlad, a point guard, and Madelyn Hamilton, a wing, will provide depth for the Rangers.
“We have to take care of the ball, defend and rebound,” Force said. “We have multiple players that can score. We need to keep our focus on playing hard, smart and together on both ends of the floor and finishing off defensive possessions with rebounds on a consistent basis.”
The Rangers open the season at home against Shaker Heights on Nov. 27.