By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In his first year as head coach, Ryan Bunch led Willow Springs to a 9-16 finish. Now he returns a slew of upperclassmen with game experience and has high expectations for the Bears.
Bryce Duddridge (6’2”) returns for his senior season. He is a versatile player and a threat from anywhere on the floor and will pull down a large percentage of rebounds. He joined the 1,000-point club last season with his 17 points per game, and also averaged 7.8 rebounds and 3 assists each night.
“He has the ability to take over games but he is at his best when he is making everyone around him better,” said Coach Bunch.
Landon Rodgers, 6’1” senior, is a physical player in the post with sharp footwork and is an effective inside scorer. Last year he averaged 8.6 ppg and 3.9 rebounds.
Sam Chaney added 8.7 points and 3.4 assists per game and was named MVP by his team at the season’s conclusion. The 6’4” senior is a physical presence inside and can shoot a 15-foot jumper with accuracy.
Michael Cawvey, senior, has a nice shooting touch and can play inside or outside. He has good footwork and rebounds well. Last year, he added 3.2 ppg and 3 rpg.
Senior Ryan Tompkins returned mid-year after an ACL tear and still averaged 3.7 ppg. He adds depth as a guard, shoots the ball well from outside and is a good on the ball defender.
Dakota McDaniel is the final returning senior, a quick presence who plays good defense and has been developing his jump shot.
New faces to varsity include senior Josh Rutledge, who sees the floor well and can shoot from outside. Ryan Cawvey will run the point guard position for the Bears and does a nice job of handling the ball. The 6’1” junior can also deliver on a jump shot. Junior Trey Talbert is quick, a threat behind the arc, and can guard anyone. Sophomore Tryton Henley is a hard worker who runs the floor well and does well in the post.
The Bears lost five to graduation. Ty Durnell was an effective point guard; Kobe Coatney was clutch down the stretch; Ben Wake, the best defensive player; Ethan Graves, key rebounder; and Hunter Fredrick, a great teammate who did the little things well.
Willow Springs won three conference match-ups last year and will aim to improve on those important contests this season.
“We lost too many close games last year,” said Coach Bunch. The Bears lost to Ava by one, to Cabool by two, to Aurora by four, for example. “We had a hard time closing out games and winning close games.”
But the Bears return their top three leading scorers and top four rebounders and they plan to get after their opponents. Their successful summer bodes well for the team.
“I am very excited about the upcoming season. As always, my hope is that we are playing our best basketball come districts,” said Coach Bunch.