By Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HEAD COACH: David Brewer
2017-18 RECORD : 20-9
2017-18 POSTSEASON: DISTRICT FINALS: Lost 66-53 to Kickapoo
In a year that could have been a rebuilding year, Ozark instead won 20 games for the first time since 2012-13 on its way to a 7-1 record in the COC-Large. Depth, energy and the inside-out combination of Macey Putt and Madi Braden put the Tigers on the verge of collecting their first district crown since 2011-12. But the run ended at the hands of state runner-up Kickapoo, who Ozark had split two games with during the regular season.
Nearly a year since that loss and now without Putt, an all-conference first teamer, the goal and the expectation of competing for a district championship hasn’t changed.
“I have high expectations for this group,” Tigers head coach David Brewer said. “Our skill positions are good and we have a lot of talent back.”
Entering her junior year, Braden takes over as the team’s unquestioned leader after averaging over 13.0 PPG each of her first two seasons and being named first-team all-conference last year.
“If she’s not the best point guard in southwest Missouri, she’s one of them,” Brewer said. “Her numbers aren’t as high as they could be with our balanced approach. She’s already a two-year starter and this is her team to run, but we don’t have to depend on her 100 percent of the time.”
Ozark’s seven returning players with varsity experience is why all the pressure doesn’t need to land on Braden. Seniors Brooke Pace, Annie Scheer, Maggie Phipps and Kinsey Norton are all back. As are juniors Katie Mays and Oliva Hanks, plus sophomore Anna Hitt. Ozark will also debut additional freshmen this season, but Brewer wasn’t ready to comment on who with the final rosters not yet decided.
“Rebounding will be key this year,” Brewer said. “It’s my one main concern [with Putt graduated]. Macey was a huge presence inside. We don’t have a big rebounder this year, so we’re going to have to block out and pursue basketballs.”
Offensively, the inside-out game Ozark was able to execute so well with Putt is expected to change this season as well into one that emphasizes pressure and quickness.
“We’ll have a different style offensively and defensively,” Brewer said.
That style will be put to the test against a Kickapoo team that Brewer said will play a completely opposite style of basketball.
Ozark opens its season November 29 in the Great 8 Classic Tournament. The Tigers open at home on December 7 against Helias Catholic. Conference play begins January 7 at Branson.
“This group is good,” Brewer said. “They worked hard all last year and have had a good offseason.”