By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jim Flora’s goal, as the fourth coach in four years, is to get Stockton High School Girls’ Basketball “back to the place where Stockton used to be.”
And, that place is the final four. The Lady Tigers made it an annual trip for four straight years (2001-2004), coming home with three state championships and a third-place trophy. After a seven-year hiatus, Stockton returned to Columbia in 2011 and 2012, winning it all in 2011 and finishing second to Mount Vernon in 2012.
Do the math, and it’s been seven years since the Lady Tigers (4-20 overall, 1-6 Mid-Lakes Conference last season) last made the trek to Columbia…
Flora is no stranger to building a winning program. Prior to coming to Stockton, he solidified the Southwest Baptist University softball program, leading the Bearcats to a 32-21 record and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Tournament finals in 2017. Before that, he coached basketball and softball at Pleasant Hope High School, taking the softball team to four final fours, winning one championship, and compiling a 144-88 record in basketball.
Will he be able to work his magic at Stockton?
“There is great tradition here, so we are trying to get back there,” Flora said. “We are hoping for improved numbers and our girls are determined to make us competitive again. We just want to compete every day and give ourselves the opportunity to win. We did that this summer, so I am hoping we can build on that success.”
He has a solid core to start with in senior forward Amie Garver, senior forward Sarrah Hottes and senior guard Kaitlyn Millard.
“I am expecting big things from Amie,” Flora said. “She had a great summer and has worked really hard in the weight room and in open gyms. She is an exceptional passer and will be the anchor of our team.”
Hottes is a hustler, great defender, athletic slasher and was the second-leading scorer this summer. Millard is a shooter and a hard worker, Flora says.
Also returning for the Lady Tigers are: Cassidy Duncan – junior point guard – a quick, good defender and improved shooter; Kaitlyn Hendrick – junior guard – great shooter, who stretches defenses; and Callee Henson – sophomore forward – hard-nosed defender and hard worker.
Flora has a large freshman class coming in that he hopes will make an impact, including Lyndsy Gire, Abby Flora, Kara Hendrick, Bekah Flora, Allison Kieth, Kaley Dalton, Kylie Schutte and Vicky Nail.
“I think our biggest X-factor will be how much our freshmen will be able to help us this year,” Flora said. “If they can come in and compete at a high level as varsity players, then that will make our team much better. Our returners have improved, so if the new players can step up, that will really help our team.
“Our strength over the summer was the team’s willingness to be coachable and execute a new way of doing things. We have very intelligent girls who understand new concepts and are able to apply them. We pass the ball very well and play true team basketball. We will utilize these strengths to play a way that will give us a chance to compete for wins.”
Stockton will open its season at the Ash Grove Tournament.
“Every game will be a huge matchup for us,” Flora said. “When you are trying to get back to the place where Stockton used to be, every game is a stepping stone in that process.”