2016-17 basketball preview: Skyline Girls

Coming off a Class 2 third-place finish at state last season, coach Kevin Cheek looks to keep the Skyline High School girls’ basketball train rolling into his 18th season at the helm.

Cheek, 424-96 all at Skyline, returns four of his five starters from a team that finished 28-5 overall and 5-1 in the Mid-Lakes Conference.

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The Lady Tigers, who have five state championships and four runner-up finishes to their name, lost point guard Payton DaMitz to graduation, but return starters 5-foot-5 junior Kaylee DaMitz, 5-8 senior McKinsey Mountain, 5-10 senior Lauren Wouters and 5-5 sophomore Autumn Garrett.

Kaylee DaMitz, a quick guard who Cheek says “does a great job of running the offense,” averaged 15 points per game, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.1 steals in 2015-16. Mountain, who has quick hands and is a great scorer and rebounder, averaged 13 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.8 steals. Wouters is long and athletic and averaged 6 points, 3.6 rebounds, while Garrett, who is “great on the drive,” contributed 10 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals.

But it doesn’t stop there for the Lady Tigers, who run players in and out throughout the game with any number of them in the starting lineup. Skyline brings back six more key contributors from 2015-16, including 5-9 junior Savannah Owen, who missed half of last season with a foot injury, 5-3 junior Kristen Miller, 6-1 junior Valen Logan, 5-9 junior Sara Cunningham and 5-4 senior Sierra Retherford.

“We like to play smart on offense with an emphasis on getting easy baskets,” Cheek said of Skyline’s style of play. “Our defense is a lot of pressure; trying to control the dribble.”

Five freshmen look to contribute in 2016-17 – 5-5 Hannah Bradley, 5-7 Alivia Gollihare, 5-8 McKenzie Carver, 5-10 Allison Nothnagel and 5-5 Madsyn Haynes.

Skyline finished second in the Mid-Lakes to eventual state champion Strafford, with its only conference loss coming to the Lady Indians.

The Lady Tigers not only put up big numbers last season, but also held their opponents to some fairly low numbers, which is par for the course with the up-tempo and pressure style of game they play. Skyline averaged 60.2 points per game, 30.1 rebounds, made 138 3-pointers and picked up 12.5 steals per game. In contrast, Skyline held its opponents on average to 36.8 points, 25.1 rebound, 59 3-pointers and forced 23.4 turnovers per game.

The season opens at the Warsaw Tournament. A few challenges early in the season will come against larger schools such as Webb City and Marshfield.

But in between, the Lady Tigers will participate in the Pink & White Lady Classic over the winter break. Last season, Skyline lost in the second round to eventual White Division champion North Little Rock, 80-53, a Class 6A Arkansas school, before knocking off Bolivar and then conference foe Fair Grove 67-57 to take fifth place.

“We should be able to play with most people,” Cheek said. “We return a lot of players, but each year is different. I like the pieces of the puzzle we have. We just need to make sure we put them in the right spots at the right time.”