Last season, there were a lot of boys basketball teams going through 'youth movements' and taking some lumps.
Now those teams are seasoned, experienced and ready to dish out some punishment of their own, and if the early season is any indication, many local teams could play the role of bullies all season long.
The Marawood Conference South Division is ripe with a plethora of well-rounded teams, one of them being the Marathon Raiders, who sit in a three-way tie atop the division.
Marathon is led by a solid inside-out game, as Collin Seubert provides the perimeter game and Vince Dinkel and Cole Glassford work on the interior.
"It is huge to have experienced guys coming back this season," Marathon coach Adam Jacobson said. "We have Collin and Vince, two all-conference players back, and Cole put in some nice minutes last year and will battle with other teams' posts all season."
Numerous teams in the area, particularly in the Marawood South, return strong teams and others got a year of experience and expect to contend this season.
"There isn't an easy win in the conference. There isn't one game where you look at the schedule and say, 'Well, that's a win,'" Jacobson said. "We talk all the time and tell our kids each night, not only are we playing for a conference championship, but we are playing for seeds, too. A lot of the teams we play are in our regional, so every game is important."
One team that has jumped to the forefront of the conference is Pittsville, which has jumped out to an equally impressive 3-0 conference mark, led by Trail Pierce and Sawyer Ladick. A prime example of the Panthers' growth was their last victory, a narrow 50-47 win over Newman Catholic after the team found ways to lose the close games last season.
"The experience has helped," Pittsville coach Dan Hoffa said. "We are able to hold our composure. We have a good inside game with Trail and Sawyer and Brad Wesely is also a very good player. We have a good nucleus. When all three have their game going, we are tough.
"We also have gotten some solid contributions from role players," Hoffa added. "We have kids that know their roles, whether it's to come in and play solid defense or spark us. Nobody cares who scores points, but winning is what matters."
With three likely all-conference players, suddenly the Panthers have become players in the South after a 10-13 overall mark (4-10 in conferece). Along with Marathon and Auburndale, the Panthers will likely battle it out for the conference crown.
The Panthers enter a pivotal stretch, with their next two games coming against Marathon and Auburndale, which will likely determine their conference title chances.
"We take it one game at a time," Hoffa said. "I tell the kids to focus on going 1-0 each game. Certainly, we will have our work cut out for us. We will devise different gameplans and go from there. Obviously, Auburndale has a star in Austin Hawkins (averaging nearly 30 points per game). We will just prepare and see how where that takes us."
So far, so good for the unbeaten Panthers.