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There is a lot of newness for the Pioneer Valley boys basketball team this season.

The Panthers have a new coach, Ross Rivera who was the freshman coach last season. They are in a new section, the CIF Central Section and a new league, the Mountain League.

Pioneer Valley, as did most of the other area sports program, moved from the Southern Section to the Central Section earlier this year.

The Panthers also have an almost completely new starting group. "We lost four of our stating five to graduation," said Rivera.

The starter the Panthers did not lose, 6-foot-6 junior Jaden Jones, helped Pioneer Valley to its first boys basketball playoff appearance in school history during the 2017-18 campaign.

Greg Lanthier took the Panthers to the post-season in his final year as Pioneer Valley's boys basketball coach and athletic director.

Pioneer Valley figures to have a dynamic post combination with the varsity veteran Jones and a varsity newcomer, 6-5 junior Elijah Bloodworth.

With Jones out sick, Bloodworth scored a team-high 29 points in Pioneer Valley's 77-58 win at home over Santa Maria.

"It's really good for us when we can have Jaden and Elijah in there at the same time," said Rivera.

"We can either get the ball in to them so they can shoot inside, or they can kick the ball out to our outside shooters."

Though the Panthers have just one starting returning starter from last season, the Panthers have some seasoned returnees in Steven Fuerte, Christian Morin and Michael Bourbon.

All three played for the Pioneer Valley football team that finished second this year in the inaugural Ocean League. Bourbon was the team's leading rusher.

On the basketball court, he scored in double figures for the Panthers in their win over Santa Maria. Morin did the same and, at point guard, steadied Pioneer Valley's offense in the fourth quarter against Santa Maria defensive preesure that had given the Panthers a lot of problems in the third.

Besides Fuerte, Bourbon and Morin, Bruin Chapman was another Pioneer Valley football player who logged a lot of playing time on the basketball court against Santa Maria.

All of Pioneer Valley's fellow PAC 8 League basketball teams from last season, save Atascadero, have joined the Panthers in the Mountain League.

The Greyhounds are in the Ocean League.

Unlike the Southern Section, any Central Section team that does not win a league championship can petition to get into the playoffs. Pioneer Valley is in the Central Section's Division II. There are 17 Division II teams and 16 Division II playoff spots.

"Just going to the playoffs won't be good enough," said Rivera. "We want to win once we get there."

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Sports Reporter