By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Norwood Lady Pirates basketball had a bit of a drop-off last season, but a run to the Class 1 final four in softball this fall could provide that winning spark for the basketball team.
Three pieces that tie the two programs together return for the basketball team this winter.
Junior batterymates Payton Drake (pitcher) and Josie Sullivan (catcher), plus senior Marla Chadwell, guided the Lady Pirates to a fourth-place finish in Class 1, as Norwood made its first trip back to the final four in 27 years.
“With the softball team going to the final four, it should definitely help their confidence level to handle the pressure situations,” said coach Shannon Crain, who is in his sixth year at Norwood.
Now the trio turns its focus from the softball diamond to the hardwood.
And, part of that will be guiding a young team that finished 11-15 overall and 3-4 in the Summit Conference last season, capped by a 52-50 loss to Gainesville in the opening round of the Class 2 District 4 Tournament.
“Our challenge last year was a very young bench,” Crain said. “The entire bench was freshmen. Hopefully, the bench will have more confidence and be able to contribute this year.”
The Lady Pirates will have to replace Chloe Crain, who averaged 9.9 points per game and was the team’s leading 3-point shooter, and Emma Nelson, who averaged 7.5 points and the leading free-throw shooter and offensive rebounding specialist.
Sullivan, a “very athletic” junior forward, returns for the Lady Pirates. Sullivan (5-foot-10) garnered All-District and All-Summit Conference honors after averaging 16.9 points per game last year.
Chadwell is a 5-5 senior point guard who averaged 5.5 points, while Drake is a 5-5 junior shooting guard who missed her freshman season because of a knee injury, and averaged 6.3 points per game last season. Crain also returns Dakota Anderson, who should help with post play.
“Josie, Marla and Payton will all need to step up their scoring from the previous season,” Crain said.
“Overall, we will be young, and with a young team, we will try to keep it simple as far as offensive schemes.”
Norwood opens the season at home against Alton on Nov. 20. Other key dates include the Scallywag Showdown on Dec. 3-8; Sparta Tournament on Jan. 3-5 and the Mansfield Tournament on Jan. 21-27.
“I do expect to be competitive and upset a few teams throughout the season,” Crain said.