Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Crane Lady Pirates after graduating an all-time senior class that won four consecutive state titles.
That is how the season started as a young Lady Pirates team that returned just one starter stumbled out to a 3-11 start. They got their footing late by winning six of their last seven that included a fifth consecutive district championship despite being a three seed.
“The Crane Lady Pirates showed tremendous growth from the beginning of the season until the end. Only having one returning starter from the previous year there was a lot of teaching and learning going on at the start of the season,” Crane head coach Jeremy Mullins said. “I would say our biggest weakness at the beginning was we didn’t know how to work hard or work together. By districts, which is always a goal, the girls were working hard consistently and they knew their roles.”
All but one player return this season, which bodes well for the Lady Pirates as they try to build off last year’s 13-win season that ended three points short of a quarterfinal appearance.
“The experiences gained from last year will hopefully pay off this season,” Mullins said. “We return one senior and five or six juniors with much needed experience. I look for the ladies to hit the floor running the first day of practice since they know the coaching staff’s expectations for how things need to be done.”
Everything will start with Madison Hicks who led the team averaging 16.1 points and eight rebounds per game as a sophomore.
“What makes her special is she listens to the coaching staff and strives to do things correctly,” Mullis said. “We look for Hicks to be even more aggressive this year on the offensive end, as she will be expected to up her numbers this season.”
Fellow junior Olivia Doto will be looked to for increased production as well in the wake of the graduation of Madison Fulp. Doto was third on the team last year at 8.9 points per game. She also had 6.6 rebounds per game.
“We look for Olivia to continue to grow her game on both ends of the floor this year,” Mullins said. “We look for her to be a force in the paint. If she can learn to keep out of foul trouble she could be a great asset to the Lady Pirates.”
Senior Maggie Vaught led the team with 3.9 assists per game last season and will be expected to run the offense.
Juniors Sadie McMenamy, Macy Hayes, Mackinzie Funcannon and Olivia Edwards give Crane a strong junior core. The quartet combined to average 13.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season.
Mullins will look for his team to continue their growth this season.
“We will be looking for the Lady Pirates to come in and work hard every day at improving their skills. We hope over the course of this season we will be poised and put ourselves in a position to have some success,” Mullins said.
Crane opens the season on Nov. 20 at home against Exeter.