By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After ending its run in the district semifinal the previous three seasons, last year’s Lockwood squad took another big step.
The Lady Tigers advanced to the Class 2 District 13 championship game, falling by a single point to Crest Ridge. The team finished with a record of 22-5.
Entering her second season, head coach Jessica McNichols hopes the experience will pay dividends down the road for her returning players.
“We were able to achieve several of our goals,” McNichols said. “But this year’s group is eager to chase after some more.”
For Lockwood to challenge for a district title this season, it will need to first replace a trio of seniors lost to graduation in Rylee Neill, Moriah Coose and Kaylee Kennon.
Neill continues her basketball career at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.
“We will miss the experience that we graduated, particularly in Rylee, Moriah and Kaylee,” McNichols said. “Those girls were fierce competitors and resilient. They did an excellent job setting the tone every day for us. We could always count on consistency from them.”
Lockwood returns a quartet of varsity lettermen, led by senior point guard Makenzie Purinton.
“Makenzie will have continue to set the tone for us on both ends of the floor with pressure defense and making good decisions with the basketball,” McNichols said.
Purinton is joined by classmates Heather Byrnes, McKenzie Kennon and Hope Dunagan, along with sophomore Tarryn Glenn.
“We return four girls who saw a lot of game time in the district championship game,” McNichols said. “That game was hard to swallow, but it taught us a lot about ourselves,” McNichols said. “It showed our kids and our program that hard work pays off. We also learned a lot about being in those type of game situations and how to handle those moments.”
Lockwood also welcomes a pair of varsity newcomers this season in senior Lillian Eggerman and freshman Kelyn Holman. McNichols believes both could make immediate impacts.
“Lillian Eggerman will be joining us on the floor as an important piece of our back court this season,” McNichols said. She is very athletic and gives us an advantage when she can rebound and push the ball down the floor for a fast break. Kelyn Holman will help us handle the basketball and knock down shots.”
While a host a players challenging for playing time, Lockwood’s roster could be in flux early in the season.
“One challenge we will need to face early is having the confidence to step up and fill those roles that our seniors filled last year,” McNichols said. “I think out biggest X-factor this season will be the development of our returners and newcomers. We will have experience coming back, but we will also have several fresh faces that will be crucial to our success.”
Lockwood opens its regular season at home against Dadeville Nov. 16.