By Derek Shore (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After posting their first winning season since 2009-10 two years ago, the Cassville Lady Wildcats took the next step forward this past winter, boasting a 17-10 overall record in 2016-17 including a run to the Class 4, District 12 Championship game.
Despite falling to perennial power Carl Junction in the district title game, the Wildcats improved tremendously as the year wore on, winning seven of their final nine games to finish out the season.
“I thought we continued to get better,” Cassville head coach Chris Shore said. “We peaked at the right time. Webb City was kind of our signature win of the season (in the semifinals). We just ran into a powerhouse in Carl Junction there at the end.”
On the downside, Cassville loses two key starters to graduation in guard Kandace Wallace and forward Macey Parsons.
“(Kandace) was a good defender and an excellent mid-range shooter,” Shore said. “(Macey) was a lanky player that was a good defender and rebounder.”
Entering this winter, though, the Wildcats return a strong nucleus of talent, including three starters and seven letterwinners to the varsity level.
Headlining this year’s team will once again be 6-foot-3 big Madi Stokes, a first-team All-Big 8 honoree and Missouri Southern commit. Stokes, who shot 71 percent from the field last season, will look to replicate a stellar junior season in which she averaged 18.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks over 27 games.
Other key returning seniors are Hallie Long, Ashlynn Howe, and Audra Brooks. Long, who posted 6.2 points per game coupled with 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists, is an excellent defender and leader. Howe averaged five points per game as the team’s top three-point shooter while Brooks contributed 6.2 points, helping out on the defensive side as well.
The Wildcats will also feature returning junior Alondra Miller and sophomore Madry McCrackin.
“Alondra also played spot minutes and is a great athlete. Madry played big minutes as a freshman and is quick,” Shore said.
Newcomers expected to see varsity time include sophomores Parker Marple, Juliette Okel, and Natalie McNeill. Marple possesses the ability to score. Okel plays hard and could play a role on varsity but will need to improve offensively, per her coach.
Softball standout Lauren Turner is also joining the Lady Wildcat roster this season.
While Cassville will continue to run their man defense and work an inside-out offensive game, Shore sees his team’s experience helping set the Wildcats apart against opponents this upcoming season.
“We need to stay healthy,” Shore said. “This team has solid leadership. These seniors have been with me for a long time and know what is expected. Our team can compete with anyone on our schedule if we focus on improvement and have no let downs.
“Our conference top to bottom should be much improved.”
Cassville opens the season at home against Pierce City on November 20.