Bacchus Marsh Lions are hoping to build on a successful debut season in the Country Basketball League.

The Lions exceeded all expectations last season to make the south-west grand final.

While they fell short to a powerhouse Mt Gambier Lakers side, the players and coaching panel know it’s a good starting point.

Co-coach Jeff Feben said they were confident heading into this season.

The side has kept the same coaching panel and had minimal player changes.

This time they will play in the north west division, as the competition tries to even out the divisions.

“We only have one expectation, and that’s to win it,” Feben said. “Last year it was to make finals and we made the grand final.

“We feel more comfortable going into the competition this year. We haven’t played in this conference before and haven’t seen most of the teams. But we believe that our conference last season was a strong conference. Every season is different.”

In a positive sign that the side is having an impact locally, the Lions had good numbers at tryouts. They settled on a squad of 16 and a development player, Cooper Macintosh, from their under-18s.

“We had good numbers interested at the tryouts and there’s some new faces,” Feben said.

“We’ve got three or four news guys who weren’t in the team last season.

“Daniel Jackson and Diquan Williams aren’t suiting up, but we’ve been able to replace them.”

Feben said the core group had returned and there had been some great intensity at training.

Billy Feben, who was co-division most valuable player and defensive player last season, and his partner in crime Jordan Kirk, are expected to be key planks in the side.

Jason Christian also returns, while Max Beaumont is expected to take the next step.

Beaumont made a name for himself last season playing for Melton Thoroughbreds in Big V youth league – he averaged nearly 19 points, the third most in his division.

“He had a pretty solid season,” Jeff Feben said of Beaumont.

“He’s come back with a lot of confidence which is great for us.”

Sam Byron, who has previously played with Melton, gives the Lions a third centre and a bit more flexibility.

Matt Parker is expected to fill the role left vacant by Jackson, while former Bacchus Marsh junior Colby Piggot joins the side.

The new season starts on October 12 against Maryborough Blazers.

Other teams in this conference are Mildura Heat, Bendigo Braves, Kyneton Tigers, Echuca Pirates and Swan Hill Flyers.