LEROY — Paige Esiline will be among the key players Pine River girls basketball coach Shawn Ruppert will be counting upon to make key contributions this season.

A senior, Esiline is in her second varsity season. She usually came off the bench for a district championship Bucks team last winter. Rebounding and defense were her main roles last season.

As for this season, her role will be “mostly a little bit of everything,” Esiline said.

She also plays volleyball and softball, but Esiline got plenty of basketball also during the offseason.

“I’ve been working on my shot, mainly,” she said. “Mainly it will be inside, probably some outside too.”

Esiline indicated defense is her strongest asset as a player.

Last week during practice, “our focus is always that our speed is the advantage we have over most teams,” she said. “We’ve been working on that.”

The Bucks lost some key seniors from last year.

“We’re pretty young but we have some experience too,” Esiline said. “We’re going to be quick again.”

She’s looking for the Bucks to be Highland Conference contenders again. Beal City and McBain are expected to be among the top league contenders.

Pine River opens the season with non-league home games Dec. 3 with Reed City and Dec. 6 with Morley Stanwood. They play at Manton Dec. 10 and home with McBain Dec. 13 in their Highland Conference openers.

“We won’t have a lot of height so getting rebounds and shots back up” will be critical against Pine River’s opponents, Esiline said.