By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Not only does Chris Randolph enter his first year as the Pierce City girls’ head basketball coach, he also enters his first year as a head coach.
After a down year last season, Randolph looks to get the Lady Eagles’ program back on track.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to take over as the head coach of this program and of
this group of girls,” Randolph said. “We are still a young team this year and hope to build off some of the momentum that they gained toward the end of last season.
“This is my first year with the program, but last year was definitely a rebuilding year for a program that had had significant success over the last decade.”
That success included five district championships in the last seven years, and a trip to the Class 2 quarterfinals in 2016-2017.
Gone from last year’s team that finished 8-19 overall and 3-4 in the Southwest Conference is Kendyl Hayward.
Hayward averaged 14.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as she was named to the all-conference second team her senior year.
“Kendyl was an all-everything player for the team as a senior leading the team in points,
rebounds and assists,” Randolph said. “Her presence will definitely be missed, and we will need multiple players to step up and fill the void that she left.”
And, that begins with 6-foot junior forward Leslie Jones. She averaged 10 PPG, 7 RPG, 1 APG and 2.5 steals per game last season. “Leslie is an athletic forward that plays with a ton of energy. She is a great defender and rebounder.”
Other returning players include Katie Tindell, Sydnee Prater, Haley Portillo and Chelsey Puckett.
• Katie Tindell, 6-1 junior, averaged 6.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 1 APG. “Katie is a post player that has strong footwork and good touch around the rim.”
• Sydnee Prater, 5-2 sophomore, averaged 6.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2 APG and 1 SPG. “Sydnee is a point guard that improved a lot as a freshman last year. She is a solid scorer from the perimeter.”
• Haley Portillo, 5-2 sophomore, averaged 3 PPG, 2 RPG and 1.4 APG. “Haley is a guard with good perimeter shooting ability.”
• Chelsey Puckett, 5-5 sophomore, averaged 1.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG and 1.2 SPG. “Chelsey is a good defender and rebounder.”
“We have good size down low with Leslie Jones and Katie Tindell returning as juniors,” Randolph said. “I expect us to be able to win the rebounding battle and score inside on any given night.
“Some of our guards put in a lot of work during the offseason to improve their ability to
score from the perimeter. Hopefully, we can translate that into a nice inside-out combination.”
Randolph has two seniors returning who sat out their junior seasons in Donielle Brottlund and Jerika Brown, in addition to incoming freshmen Olivia Stanphill (5-8), Trinity Ewing (5-8), Madison Tindell (5-10) and Keisha Williams (5-5).
“Taking care of the basketball will be pivotal to our overall success as a team this year,” Randolph said. “Our young guards gained a ton of important experience last year as freshmen at the varsity level, and I expect them to take a big step forward this season.”
The Lady Eagles will participate in a jamboree at Crane with East Newton and Forsyth on Nov. 21, before opening the regular season in the Ash Grove Lady Pirate Classic on Dec. 2-7.
“I hope that our growth and maturity surprise a lot of people this year,” Randolph said. “There was a lot of valuable experience gained last year by this group, and I hope that the experience gained last year can lead to success on the court this year.”