By Angie Brushwood (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Sarcoxie Lady Bears have been on the winning side and steadily improving since 2016. Last year’s standout 23-3 season was halted by Pierce City with a 57-37 district semifinal loss.
Coach April Ellis goes into her ninth year as the Lady Bears’ head coach with last year’s Class 2, District 11 Coach of the Year recognition. When Ellis took over the program nine years ago, the Lady Bears had won only four games in four seasons. By 2016, they had improved to 15-10.
Ellis credits Sarcoxie’s low turnover in coaching for the school’s athletic improvements in all sports.
“Consistency has played an important role across the board,” said Ellis. “It comes from our junior high program and youth sports and consistency in those places. Sarcoxie is creating a culture over here that we are proud of.”
The Lady Bears graduated two seniors, Carson Chandler and Heidi Lopez. Carson earned All-Area and 1st team All-Spring River Valley Conference, and Lopez earned 2nd team all-conference.
“Our biggest strength is quickness,” said Ellis. “We are defensively better than last year with a better understanding of the game, another year of experience, and an experienced freshman group coming in.”
Junior Chelsea Evans (5’11”) is the Lady Bears top scorer at 12 ppg. Evans is a first-team all-conference and all- district player, and Ellis expects her to be a strong inside player.
“Chelsea has great footwork in the paint and her presence inside is going to be huge for us both offensively and defensively,” said Ellis. “She is able to finish contested shots, and that is going to be key.”
Just behind Evans with a 7 ppg average, junior Kierston Dodson (5’7”) will add smarts to the Lady Bears’ defense.
“Kierston is extremely intelligent,” said Ellis. “Her ability to see the floor is beyond her years and will prove to be a significant factor in our success. Kierston will be a key defensive player creating many turnovers and quick scores for us.”
Seniors Nicole Robinson (5’8”) and Micah Edwards (6’1”) bring experience to the Lady Bears. Ellis will look to Robinson (3 ppg, 3 rpg) to replace Chandler on offense.
At 6’1” and Edwards (3ppg, 5 rpg) will be a scoring force.
“Micah is a great defender,” said Ellis. “Her forte is on the boards, though. Her height combined with her strength will really make her a threat.”
Averaging 5 ppg and 4 apg last season, 5’5” Giselle Lopez (jr.) brings quickness to the court.
“Giselle is one of the quickest players I have ever seen,” said Ellis. “Her ability to handle the basketball is going to provide many problems for our opponents. She will be in our guard play offensively being able to pull up and shoot or take it to the rim. I look for Giselle to have good decision making skills when it comes to distributing the basketball.”
Juniors Kerleen Armando and Jaycee Lee, along with sophomore Josie Kilpatrick, round out the Lady Bears’ returning players.
Some talented freshmen will see playing time, including Annette Ramirez, Jessica Hinkle, and Kyann Ogle. Ellis expects Ogle to see significant varsity time.
Ellis is determined to continue the upward trend of the Lady Bears.
“We have a good group of kids who are humble and who don’t play selfish basketball,” said Ellis. “We’ve turned the corner and are trying to create a tradition where we are competitive, and we are winning every year.”
Sarcoxie’s season opener will be November 17 at New Covenant Academy.