l host Lasell College (Mass.) in the 8 p.m. game Friday night, following the 6 p.m. affair between Thomas College (Maine) and Roger Williams University (R.I.). The consolation match-up is Saturday at 4 p.m., with the championship contest slated for 6 p.m.
The 15-man Panther roster this season includes seven freshmen and four sophomores. Second-year head coach John Scheinman returns four starters and six regulars from last year's squad that finished with a respectable 14-11 overall record and a 7-7 mark in Little East Conference games.
PSC is optimistic that this will be a solid campaign and that the Panthers will make a return to the post-season. The Panthers made four straight trips to the play-offs from 1996-99, and Scheinman believes that there is plenty of talent on this year's squad to earn a tournament bid in March.
2000-01 P.S.C. Men's Basketball Outlook
While the Panthers should have no problem scoring this season (they averaged 82 points a game last year), look for PSC to be solid at both ends of the court.
"The three things we led the conference in last year," said Scheinman, "were rebounding, rebounding margin, and field goal defense. We'll be a strong rebounding team again, and the guys take pride in playing defense. We'll usually have five guys on the floor who can score. We need to turn the ball over less and improve our free throw percentage, which will allow us to win the close games."
PSC started a pair of freshmen and a sophomore last season, and Scheinman is hoping that youth movement will pay off this year. "Having such a young team and developing the depth on this team could be a concern," said Scheinman, "but hopefully the experience the veterans got last year will pay dividends this season."
With such a young squad, the Panthers will rely on the leadership of senior captains Tony Martinez (Barnstead, N.H.) and Warren Ostler (Morrisville, Vt.) and juniors Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) and Larry Francoeur (Somersworth, N.H.).
"Tony is clearly our leader," said Scheinman. "He's a great captain; he's done everything we've asked, and all the guys really look up to him. Warren has improved a great deal, and he's very unselfish and a good leader."
Martinez is not just a leader in the locker room, but he's one of the top players in New England. He rumbled his way through the conference last season, earning First Team All-LEC honors after averaging 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds as a power forward and shooting 53 percent from the field.
"Tony is our go-to guy," said Scheinman. "Relentless is the best way to describe him. He's tough and feisty, and someone you don't want to have to play against. He's difficult to guard because of his quickness and tenacity."
Blackburn joins Martinez to give PSC a formidable duo in the trenches. He started to come into his own last season, averaging 10.8 points and 8.4 boards, shooting 53 percent from the floor. Scheinman expects he and Martinez to average double-doubles. Ostler, who saw increased playing time in the Panther front court last season, could find himself in a starting role or sixth-man.
Francoeur and sophomore starters Dan Craig (Chelmsford, Mass.) and Kenny Stewart (Londonderry, N.H.) give PSC a solid trio of veterans at the guard spot. Craig, who starts at the point, is good at distributing the ball while averaging 10 points a game. Stewart is always around the ball and can also move to the small forward spot. Francoeur can fill in at either guard position.
"Those guys love to play the game," said Scheinman. "They give us that intangible."
The top newcomer in the large freshman class is 6'3" swingman Frankie Finklea (Dorchester, Mass.), who is the likely starter at small forward. He's a slasher with excellent athletic ability.
"Frankie is a great addition to our program," said Scheinman. "The thing we needed to add the most was a tall, athletic wing player, and he provides us that. He's a missing piece to the puzzle."
Other freshmen who could make solid contributions, according to Scheinman, include guard Mike Loughlin (Machester, N.H./West) and center Ryan Chicoine (Gorham, Maine). Loughlin is a good shooter who can play both guard spots, and Chicoine is improving every day and should see regular playing time up front.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Mike Kalbfell (Somers, N.Y.) and Jeff Mullin (Derry, N.H.) and freshmen Jake Parsons (Sudbury, Mass.), Harold Roy (East Boston, Mass.), Jon Creamer (Hooksett, N.H./Central), and Mike Reynolds (Hampton, N.H.).
"Our goal is to win the Little East Tournament, and get into the NCAA Tournament," said Scheinman. "We want to improve our performance and be playing our best at the end of the season, but winning the LEC Tournament is what we're striving for."