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Blue Knights begin first year under Pena

The Manchester West girls basketball team tips off for the first time this winter Friday, Nov. 7, at home against Kingswood.

The game will mark the team’s first regular season contest under first-year head coach Mario Pena.

Through the first two weeks of his year at West, Pena said he has already seen an improvement in his players.

“We’ve just been working with the girls for the past week-and-a-half or so and they have been working hard and picking up a lot of things,” he said. “I’m pretty happy with the improvements they have made in a short period of time.”

At the same time, Pena said he is unsure about what to expect in the coming season. He spent time coaching boys basketball before, but this is his first year coaching the girls game.

“It’s hard to tell how we look for the year without actually being able to compete against other teams and go from there, but I know that I have a great group of girls who have been working hard,” said Pena.

But through the preseason, Pena said the team is beginning to gel together.

He has talent from several different classes, including two freshmen who will split time at varsity and junior varsity. He said they have the potential to be playing predominantly at the varsity level after the first group of games.

“I’ve got a good core of girls,” he said. “They have been getting along together and helping each other along the way.”

The biggest strength for West is its depth and balance, Pena said. The Blue Knights have both post players and guards who can run up the floor.

“Especially as a varsity team, one through eight or nine we’re pretty good,” Pena said. “A lot of them do similar things, it’s just getting them to play together.”

Pena said he hasn’t paid much attention to the team’s schedule, but wants to center preparation around what his team needs to do, rather than what his opponents will bring.

“We have our first game Friday, and I’m trying to get our girls ready for that game,” he said. “Right now, my focus is to get our girls to know our plays so I know what to expect out of them, our defenses and all sorts of getting them in shape and getting them ready to be there.”

After Kingswood, the Blue Knights go on the road for two games against Con-Val and Goffstown. They return home for their final game before winter break on Dec. 20 against Milford, and resume Jan. 4 at Hanover.

“I love it - They listen and they are extremely hard workers that want to do well,” Pena said. “As the season will go and the more we work on things, the better we will be. I’m pretty happy that I’m coaching this group of girls.”

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