By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For having lost four seniors from the Class of 2018, the Pierce City Eagles still had a solid season in 2018-2019.
“We had a pretty good season last year,” said coach Matt Street, who was named Southwest Conference Coach of the Year. “We were the Southwest Conference champions and earned the No. 1 seed in our district. We executed our game plan each night and really took some major steps forward during the season.
“Even though our season didn’t end the way we would have liked, we will look to build on last year’s success and pick up where we left off.”
The Eagles finished the season with a 19-9 overall record and 7-0 in the conference. They had their season cut short with a 52-42 loss to Liberal in the Class 2 District 12 semifinals.
But, on the bright side, the Eagles lose only one player from last season – Kaden Raley.
“Kaden came off our bench and played inside for us,” Street said. “He did a great job of giving us some big minutes and providing some leadership for our team.”
The Eagles return a lot of experience with five seniors and two juniors.
• Jackson Kleiboeker, a 6-foot senior, averaged 14.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He earned all-district and first-team all-conference honors as a junior, ending his season as the team’s leading scorer. “Jackson had a really good junior season,” Street said. “Jackson is really athletic and brings a lot of versatility to our team. He has the ability to hit shots from the outside and aggressively attack the rim.”
• Aaron Garner, 5-8 senior, averaged 8.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.1 SPG and was an all-district and second-team all-conference pick. “Aaron does a great job of getting us into our offense and setting our team up for success. He is a good defender and has the ability to score from the outside and get to the rim.”
• Kyle Renkoski, 6-3 junior, averaged 11.6 PPG, 6.7 RG, 1.1 APG and 1.4 SPG, and was named honorable mention all-conference. “Kyle was asked to step into a large role and did a great job in that role. He is a versatile player that can score in many different ways. Kyle is also a good defender and brings a different dynamic to our team.”
• Colten O’Hara, 6-0 senior, averaged 5.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.4 APG and 1.3 SPG. “Colten guarded the other team’s best player every night and still managed to pick up some really big buckets for us. Colten will continue to be one of our leaders on both ends of the floor.”
• Trenton Kluck, 6-0 senior, averaged 8.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 1.1 APG. “Trenton is a good defender and can score in many different ways. Kluck is a great athlete and really creates some match-up problems as he can play inside and on the perimeter.”
• Tristan Cruz, 6-1 junior, averaged 3.7 PPG and 2.7 RPG. “Tristan split time between JV and varsity throughout the season, but was a really important part or our team.”
• Seth Fisher, 6-3 senior, averaged 1.4 PPG and 1.5 RPG. “Seth did a great job for us during his junior season. As the year went on, he became more and more comfortable in his role.”
And, after sitting out last season, 6-0 senior Trey Sagehorn returns to the Eagles’ lineup.
“Trey played for us his freshman and sophomore year,” Street said. “He is an all-district and all-conference player that will return this season. Trey is really athletic and has the ability to hit shots from the outside and aggressively attack the rim, all while being a good defender.”
“With a number of key players returning from last season, we will try to pick up where we left off,” Street said. “We will put some players in different roles than they have played in the past and ask them to play a much larger role on the varsity. We will be deeper and have the ability to play at an even faster pace than we did last season. We will try to set the tone for our season on the defensive end of the floor and let our offense feed off it.”
That depth and experience – and team defense – will be the keys to a successful season, Street says.
“Most of our guys have started and played varsity since they were freshmen,” Street said. “We will have 9-10 guys that can play at a high level and have the ability to fill a lot of roles and play many different positions.
“I think that our athleticism and versatility will surprise some teams this season. We should have the ability to play many different styles of basketball and score in several different ways. I feel that our real strength will be on the defensive end of the floor. We will have some size and should be able to match up with most teams on our schedule.”
Pierce City opens the season hosting its own tournament on Dec. 2-7. The field features Class 2 state champion Greenwood, East Newton, College Heights, Sarcoxie, Billings, Purdy, Verona and host Pierce City.
“One big challenge that we will face this season is the strength of our schedule,” Street said. “I feel that we have a really good mix of teams on our schedule to prepare us to be successful in the postseason.
“Another obstacle that we will face this season will be finding playing time for all our guys. We will need to find a rotation that sets up for success and will have our strengths on showcase at all times.”