By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Under first-year head coach Chris Kennedy, the McDonald County Lady Mustangs tallied a 7-18 record.
The team graduated three players, but back in the fold this season are two familiar names: Ragan Wilson and Rita Santillan.
The girls face solid competition throughout the Big 8 West conference, but the aforementioned players are synonymous with conference postseason accolades.
Wilson, a senior, has started since her freshman year, and was second team all-conference.
Her senior counterpart, Santillan, was all-conference honorable mention.
Other returning seniors include: Jaylie Sanny and Alexia Estrada.
Wilson and Santillan are the returning starting seniors this season who will serve as offensive catalysts.
“We are going to build on what we did last year. That was the foundation at work last year and now we are going off that and getting some things going,” Kennedy said. “Our offense is the main key. Putting the ball in the hole will be crucial in our success. Also, going back to great team defense on teams’ main players … we didn’t do a good job of that. We need to do a better job of making their shot selection and percentage lower.”
Sustaining balance and creating offense out of a stingy defensive attack is also vital in season two for the Mustangs, Kennedy said.
“This year, we are hopeful to be out in the passing lanes a little bit more,” Kennedy said of the defense. “Where we can cause a little more havoc, and then use the defense to transition to offense and maybe get us some easier buckets. We are not tall, so we are playing below people and will have to use our quickness and cause a lot of havoc to get some easier chances for us on the other end.”
Offensively, Wilson averaged six points per game and Santillan tallied eight.
Kristin Penn averaged seven, Laney Wilson had three, and Caitlyn Barton and Sydney Killion averaged two.
“Kristin has come on really well for us,” Kennedy said of Penn. “She will have a lot of heavy minutes. She has done a real good job of playing inside and outside. We are excited about her.”
As for the seasoned court generals in [Rita] Wilson and Santillan, the best has yet to come for the dynamic duo.
“Those two girls have played quite a bit of basketball together,” Kennedy said. “It will have to be one of things — hitting a high percentage of their shots — and being leaders that seniors should be. Things shouldn’t surprise those two. If someone gets us into a trap or press or something, we should be able to get into things and them help us out.”
As for the conference, Kennedy said he expects a wide open field behind Nevada.
“On our side of it, Nevada has a good group coming back,” Kennedy said. “After that, I think it is in the air. It just depends on who pulls out a victory, here and there.”
The team travels to Webb City Nov. 21 for its preseason jamboree.
The Mustangs will battle the host Lady Cardinals, Mount Vernon, and Carl Junction.
An official time has yet to be determined.
The Lady Mustangs open the 2019-20 campaign on the road at the Freeman Sports Medicine CJ Classic, Dec. 2-6.
The home opener is scheduled for Dec. 19 against Carthage.