By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For the first time in five years the Lamar girls basketball team had a losing record last season.
A young Tigers team had just one returning player with varsity experience and stumbled to a 12-14 record, but Mandy Moyer has high expectations for this year’s group, especially after an impressive summer of workouts and scrimmages.
“Overall we were young and the varsity experience we had was very limited. That’s not the case this year for us,” Moyer said. “It will be interesting to see how that plays into this year compared to last year.”
Lamar must replace first team All-Big 8 player Hallee Doss who averaged more than 16 points per game and also earned all-area and all-district honors. Doss, nearly six feet tall, played both inside and out for the Tigers.
But the Tigers return as many as six others who started at times last year in junior Sierra White, senior Halle Miller, senior Faith White, sophomore Josey Adams, junior Kara Morey and junior Eli Daniels.
White was an honorable mention all-conference player last season after averaging 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals per game.
“She’s great at penetrating the gaps and creating layups,” Moyer said. “I saw a lot of growth out of her and a lot of maturity out of her this summer. She’s going to be one of our frontcourt leaders. She played on an AAU basketball team this summer and I think that really helped her out with the growth we saw this summer.”
Miller started all but one or two games last season and averaged 9.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while playing inside for the Tigers. She shot better than 70 percent from the free throw line.
“A great rebounder,” Moyer said. “Another kid who played AAU basketball this summer and her outside shooting really improved. She’s also our best free throw shooter on the team.”
Moyer said White is a vital role player in the post but can also play on the outside. She scored six points and added four rebounds per game last year and is one of two seniors on the roster along with Miller.
“She’s more of a utility player because she can really play any position on the floor for us,” Moyer said. “She’s a very smart player and one of our best kids at actually sacrificing her body and taking a charge. She probably got at least one charge every game.”
Adams will have the biggest role of anybody, Moyer said, as the sophomore replaces Doss at the point guard position. She’s yet another Lamar player who participated in AAU basketball over the summer; she was on the Victory 17-and-under team that won the Mid-America Youth Basketball Nationals D2 championship.
“She’s a great outside shooter and she can drive to the basket and finish,” Moyer said. “We’re going to look for her to help balance the scoring on the floor.”
Morey averaged 5.6 points, two assists and two steals last year. She’s 5-foot-3 and the team’s best defender on the floor.
“That’s where she makes up for her size,” Moyer said. “Whoever their best point guard is on the floor, that’s who she guards and she sticks to them like glue. She’s going to help Josey bring up the ball some but I really want to push her to the two position because she’s a great three-point shooter and she’s really extended her range. I look for her to increase her scoring ability with the three-point threat to open up the post.”
Daniels scored five points and grabbed 6.8 rebounds per game last year and will be another key player on the inside for the Tigers. She also played AAU ball over the summer.
“She’s quick for her size and gets up the floor really quick,” Moyer said. “She and Daniels and Miller, they really make a great team on the inside and they work well with each other and play well with each other.”
Lamar also expects to receive contributions from juniors Elly Haun and Hannah Bribin as well as sophomore Emma Johnson. Bribin is 5-foot-11 and Haun is 5-foot-5; they’ll have big roles off the bench. Johnson saw some varsity time as a freshman last year and will help with backup duties at point guard.
Freshman Phajjia Gordan, 5-foot-9, played a lot of varsity minutes during summer camps and should see quite a few minutes this winter; she’s a good rebounder. She’s one of nine freshmen on the roster.
Of the 22 players on the roster, 20 of them are multi-sport athletes and Moyer saw a lot of development over the summer that makes her believe Lamar will be a really balanced scoring team. On any given night one of six or so players could be the leading scorer.
“I have very high expectations for this group,” she said.
Moyer is making changes to the team’s offense and defense and also changes to how she runs practice, now asking players to give more during those sessions.
“Every second we’re in the gym you’ve got to give me everything you’ve got,” she said. “I think they have high expectations for themselves. Halle Miller and Faith White and even Kara Morey, who I look to as our leaders, they’re going to tell you the same thing. Especially after this summer. We went to the Bolivar shootout and had great success there, went to Pitt State and had great success there and played in the Webb City league.”