By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
While Pierce City enjoyed another successful run last season with a 22-7 record, the finish seemed all-too familiar.
In the past four seasons, the Eagles have fallen to Crane twice in the sectional round and Purdy twice in the district championship — including last year’s 55-51 defeat.
Head coach Matthew Street, entering his tenth year at Pierce City, feels the adversity will only make this season’s team that much more prepared for success.
“The biggest challenge of last season was the way that it ended,” Street said. “Our guys were really disappointed, and it will be something we learn from.”
Before Pierce City is able to challenge for another district title, it must first replace a talented quartet of graduated seniors.
Hunter Tindell (18.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Donell Kleiboeker (10.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Dallas Kleiboeker and Hunter Hatfield leave behind a void of varsity leadership and experience.
Despite the losses, Street is looking forward to developing the next wave of Eagle cagers.
“The current group of guys are a really athletic and talented group,” Street said. “They are versatile and always want what’s best for the team.”
A quintet of juniors, led by 5-foot-8 Aaron Garner (9.1 ppg, 5.2 apg) and 6-foot Trey Sagehorn (9.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg), return to Pierce City’s roster this season. The pair are joined by 6-footers Jackson Kleiboeker (6.7ppg, 2.4 rpg), Colten O’Hara (5.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg) and Trenton Kluck (4.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
“I believe that our biggest strengths this season are our athleticism and versatility,” Street said. “One area that we need to build on is our outside shooting. We struggled last season from beyond the arc.”
A host of newcomers could make immediate impacts on the varsity roster, including 6-foot-3 senior Kaden Raley, 5-foot-9 senior Aryn Moudy, 6-foot-1 junior Dominick Smith, 6-foot-4 junior Seth Fisher, 6-foot-2 sophomore Kyle Renkoski and 6-foot sophomore Tristan Cruz.
“Our expectations are the same for every season,” Street said. “We want to improve every day and compete for a conference and district championship. I think that we have the talent and ability to be in mix for another conference and district championship this season, but we have to take it day by day and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Following a Nov. 16 jamboree with Monett, Springfield Catholic and Verona, Pierce City will host its own invitation tournament to open the regular season Nov. 26.