By Angie Brushwood (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Lady Tigers finished 8-18 last season, falling to Lamar 52-33 in district quarterfinals.
This year’s Stockton team is young and low in numbers—only eleven players deep, but coach Kevin Besch is confident they will exceed expectations.
“The big thing this year is we don’t have any seniors,” said two-year Lady Tigers’ coach Kevin Besch. “But the numbers that I have, they’re the kind of girls that anybody would want to coach. They are great kids who work hard, do what you ask, and do not make excuses.”
The Stockton Lady Tigers graduated three strong players, including scoring leader Annie Besch. Besch, who now plays for Evangel, was 2nd-team Mid Lakes All Conference and made the All-District team, averaging 12.5 ppg and 10.2 rpg.
Returning for the Stockton Lady Tigers are three juniors, Amie Garver, Sarrah Hottes, and Kaytlyn Millard. Garver (5’6”) is recovering from an ACL tear but should be ready to play in December. Garver averaged 10.7 ppg last season, so her teammates will need to step up their offense in her absence.
Hottes (5’6”) averaged 6.8 ppg and 4.7 rpg last season and is ready to assume leadership of the young team.
“Sarah‘s strength on offense is attacking the basket and finishing,” said head coach Kevin Besch. “I will need her to do that, but also to look and know when to dish the ball off to a teammate. She’s a great defender and will be matched up with the other team’s better players.”
Millard will get another chance to show off her defensive skills.
“Kaytlyn gained a lot of experience this last year,” said Besch. “She became another one of the team’s best defenders. She has developed her shot and is learning that 2/3 spot, and when to shoot the ball.”
Sophomores Katie Hedrick, Shanae Potts, Kaitlyn Creek (5’10”), and junior Liana Bothman will play key roles for the Lady Tigers. With some varsity experience behind her, Hedrick will play some point guard. Creek averaged 2.3 rpg as a freshman.
Incoming freshmen Jenna Rickman, Callee Henson, and Riley Stapp will be called on to help cement the small Lady Tigers team. Besch will call on 5’8” Rickman to play beyond her years.
“Jenna will have a chance to be a key role with the team coming in as a freshman,” said Besch. “She’s a versatile player and can play multiple positions. We want her in there to help build the team for now and the future. She cannot play like a freshman; she’ll be asked to take on an important part with the team this year.”
Stapp (5’6”) offers agility, while Besch predicts that Henson (5’4”) will play beyond her stature.
“Riley has great speed and quickness. She’s good at running the floor, and that’s what we want to do this year,” said Besch. “Callee will surprise people. With her size, she will compete and hustle and push for a spot on the roster. She’s a physical player that refuses to get out-worked.”
Sophomore Cassidy Duncan (5’5”) returns to Stockton after a year away and will help at guard.
Class 3, District 12 had some changes, with Springfield Catholic moving out but Clever moving in. The tough Mt. Vernon tournament will not include Stockton this year, but the Pink and White will offer an equal if not greater challenge to the young team. Besch expects Strafford, Skyline, and Fair Grove to be tough opponents as usual.
“It’s not going to be an easy road at all. But it will prepare us for post season,” said Besch. “We will be young this year, and there’s not a lot of us. We will have to be a defensive minded team, create turnovers, and be scrappy. At the same time, these are the kids coaches like to coach. They work hard every practice and every game. We saw some things at the end of the summer that showed me that we’re getting there. Our girls are up for the challenge.”
Stockton will open its season on home court against Clever on November 20.