By Derek Shore
Despite having their playoff hopes cut short by former Big 8 rival Carl Junction in the second round of districts last year, the Cassville Lady Wildcats compiled their first winning season (14-13 overall record) since 2009-10 and have the makings to do greater things this winter.
They’ve certainly got the pieces to do so.
Unlike a year ago, the Lady Wildcats will be a veteran-laden group in 2016-17, returning four starters and seven letter-winners to the varsity level. Even though Carl Junction moved to the COC-Large, head coach Chris Shore and his team still have its hands full in conference play with Mt. Vernon, Aurora, and East Newton each returning its core and expected to compete atop the Big 8 once again.
Shore also believes chief-rival Monett will be a “much improved” club as well.
The Wildcats will also return the majority of its core, starting with junior big Madi Stokes, packing a whole 6-foot-3 body in the paint. Stokes, who Shore once called “game changer inside,” averaged nearly a double-double per game as a sophomore. She also swatted 2.7 blocks a game and her coach believes her offensive game will take the team to the next level this season.
Key returning seniors include Kandace Wallace and Macey Parsons. Wallace, a 5-foot-6 guard, registered 5.7 points per game and grabbed 2.5 boards as a junior. Shore described her as a pure three-point shooter from the outside. Parsons, a 5-foot-10 post, chipped in 4.2 points a game with nearly four rebounds. “She’s an athletic post with shooting range,” Shore said.
In addition, Cassville will welcome back a trio of juniors, who played significant varsity minutes during summer league action. Those upperclassmen include Hallie Long, Ashlynn Howe, Audra Brooks, and Kaylee Reibert.
Long, a 5-foot-8 forward averaged 6.4 points per game with nearly five assists and two steals. “Long’s a much-improved shooter,” Shore said. “She was our top defensive player last year.”
Howe, a 5-foot-6 guard, had 4.6 points per game with three assists and 1.5 steals. “She will fill the point guard position,” Shore added. “She really stepped up late last season and is a hard-nosed defender.”
Newcomers expected to see varsity time include sophomores Avery Brow and Callie Beagle, plus freshman Madry McCrackin.
“We are going to be better this year than we have been in the past,” Long said of his team. “Most of our team from last season is coming back. One of our main goals for this season is to play as a team.”
Shore believes his team’s style of play will alter slightly following the transfer of All-Big 8 Honorable Mention guard Devyn Callahan, who moved to Purdy. Cassville will still look to push the ball, though.
Cassville’s head coach was pleased with his team’s performance this summer and hopes it culminates into bigger things during the upcoming regular season.
“This team showed flashes of greatness last season,” Shore said. We just weren’t consistent. I think we had a great offseason and a nice showing this summer. We’re a year older now. We finished last season shooting the ball much from the three-point line. I expect no less this season. They are hungry to prove themselves.
“We will continue to play our man defense. On offense, I expect our group to work our inside-out game well.”
The Lady Wildcats open up regular season play against Pierce City on Nov. 31. Cassville will play chief-rival Monett in the regular-season finale, a Feb. 20 matchup against the Purple Haze.