With five players, including four starters, coming back from last season's sectional tournament-qualifying team, the 2012-13 Mayer High girls' basketball team hopes to take the next step in its progression.
Second-year coach Clint Cross' small-school Division IV Wildcats finished with an 8-14 overall record last season, but they still made the initial stage of the postseason despite not advancing to the state playoffs.
The Wildcats opened the season on a positive note despite getting off to a slow start against Mingus Mountain, winning the game 45-19.
Natalia Freemyer guided Mayer offensively with 18 points, 12 of which came in the first half, and added four steals.
Dakota Porter and Lauren Entsler had eight points and six points, respectively.
The Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season Wednesday night in Surprise.
Freemyer led the effort with 12 points.
Mayer headed to the Phoenix Country Day Tournament this past Friday and Saturday. Results were not available by press time.
"We are counting on being competitive and plan on making improvements from last year," Cross said. "We have improved offensively. We're still not a great shooting team, but we'll definitely shoot the ball better than we did last year."
Starting senior guard Freemyer, Mayer's leading scorer from a season ago, guides the team on offense in its new four-guard alignment that takes advantage of the team's speed while compensating for its lack of height.
"We will count on her for some of our scoring," Cross said of Freemyer. "She's probably our best shooter."
Junior point guard Porter, another returning starter, will provide leadership.
Returning starting guards Entsler and Ashe Bell, as well as junior forward/post Taylor Klaussen, round out the top players for the Wildcats.
In the off-season, the coach changed the team's offense and he said the players are still getting accustomed to the alterations.
"We don't have a whole lot of height, but we'll spread the floor a little bit and try and attack the basket to create some foul opportunities," Cross said. "We're going to see if we can be a little bit more aggressive offensively and get to the foul line a little more."
Mayer will primarily play man-to-man defense, although it will toss in zone packages because of its shorter lineup.
"The girls are somewhat quick, and we should be pretty solid defensively," Cross added.
In the final analysis, this winter's Mayer squad essentially wants to improve in most every facet of the game and tack on more wins.
But the girls surely wouldn't mind qualifying for sectionals again.
Although the Wildcats have not been ultra-competitive in recent years, they did have their share of shining moments in the late 1980s when they advanced to three straight state championship games and won a title in 1989, which capped an undefeated season.