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PAC 8 League opponents, Pioneer Valley boys basketball coach Greg Lanthier said, will have a hard time out-muscling his team.

"We're as big and as physical as any of the teams in our league," said Lanthier, who is also Pioneer Valley's athletic director. "That's where our strength is.

"We should be able to hold our own inside."

Pioneer Valley finished 12-16, including 4-10 in the PAC 8. The four league wins are the most for a boys basketball team in school history.

The Panthers won't be particularly big in numbers as they try to make a push toward a playoff spot.

"We have eight players for sure," said Lanthier. "We might get a couple more. We have four players going back-and-forth between JV and varsity."

Pioneer Valley's varsity has six returnees from last year, including 6-foot-6-inch junior post player Jordan Jones.

Jones came on strong as last season progressed. "He's a really good player," said Lanthier. Jones was PV's second-leading scorer and rebounder last year.

The team's scoring leader, Leo Partida-Ruiz, graduated.

Matt Garcia, the senior quarterback for the football team, is back. "Matt can play every position," said Lanthier.

The Panthers' starting point guard from last year, D.J. Martinez, returns. So does third-year varsity player Sal Villa.

"He's an athletic wing," said Lanthier.

Michael Bourbon, a junior perimeter player and another football player, returns. So does 6-2 Taylor Burns who is "a very physical front line player," said Lanthier.

The other two firm varsity players are senior Nate Willis and junior Steven Furerte.

"Nate is a front-line player. Fuerte is a wing," said Lanthier.

On offense, "We should be pretty balanced," Lanthier said. On defense, "We'll probably play mostly man-to-man."

The Panthers opened their season Tuesday at Lompoc with a 59-44 win. Pioneer Valley will play in two tournaments after that, and then play its league opener at home against St. Joseph Jan. 5.

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Sports Reporter