By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
When the Hillcrest Hornets take the floor this December, they’ll do so with a fresh start. Last year, the program finished 1-24 and winless (0-8) in the Ozark Conference.
Now in the second year under coach Justin Gerald, and with three starters and six lettermen returning, the Hornets hope to establish a more competitive brand of basketball this coming season.
“I’m really looking forward to the season,” Gerald said. “We are one more year experienced all the way around, as players, coaches, and as a program. This year we are focusing on ourselves: dedication and pride. We have some pieces to the puzzle to be a competitive team. Finding leadership early in our season will be key. We have a lot of work to do, but I feel with the staff we have in place and the kids we have this year, we are in a great position to make a statement as a program still in transition. I’m very anxious to get this season started as we have a lot to prove this season.”
For the Hornets to improve, they’ll need key contributions from their returners, starting with returning points, assists, and steals leader in junior Sarah Hale, who posted averages of 10.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 steals, and 3.6 assists last year. “Sarah will start her junior year with the most experience on our team,” Gerald said. “She is a hard worker and likes to lead by example. However, this year, I expect Sarah to take a more vocal role. We desperately need someone to be the voice of the team.”
Hillcrest will also lean on the play of senior Reagan Jamison, who averaged 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 3.5 steals last year. “Reagan was a fun player to watch last year in her first year of varsity experience,” Gerald said. “Her ability to drive to the rim as something not many of our girls did last year. Reagan led the team in attempted and made free-throws last year – something I really stress to the team as a huge statistic. With Reagan’s ability to drive and finish or get fouled, she is going to be a huge part in taking care of the ball and distributing it to the team.”
The Hornets will also look to senior Jasmyn Johnson, who tore her ACL as a junior during volleyball season. “She is a hard-working post player that can also score,” Gerald said. “We missed her and her abilities a lot last season. Jasmyn is healthy and ready to have a great senior year.”
Other returners to watch include Kelly Tran, Madison Schaefferkoeter, and Mackenzie Kendrick. Tran is a good outside shooter, Schaefferkoeter was the leading scorer on junior varisty last season, and Gerald believes Kendrick will be a defensive spark for the team.
Gerald also expects to get important contributions from a pair of freshmen: Cora Shatu and Lara Johnson.
Last season, the Hornets averaged 38 points per game while shooting 31 percent from the field, 27 percent from 3-point range, and 67 percent from the foul line. They hope to improve on all of those numbers this coming season.