By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Spokane Lady Owls return all but one player from last season’s 13-14 team, so expectations are high this season. Leading the Owls will be coach Garet Nunan, who is entering his second year for Spokane. Spokane has lost in their district final the past three years so the seniors on this squad are looking to get that monkey off their backs.
“Our real goal is to finally win a district championship at Spokane,” said senior captain Josie Jordan. “We’ve played in a district championship game every year we seniors have been in high school and we want to be the group that wins it. It’s going to take a lot of hard work for us to get there, but we’re ready to go to work.”
Expectations are hard to live up to but Coach Nunan is ready for the challenge.
“I have high expectations for this year’s basketball season,” said Nunan. “We return almost the entire roster—and the full starting lineup—from a team that exceeded expectations and made it to a district championship game last season. We gained valuable experience playing a tough summer schedule and we’re ready to tackle the season from the beginning.”
Gone from this year’s squad due to graduation is Shelby Byrne. Byrne was a role player but played that role well.
“Shelby was a great teammate and a flexible basketball player that gave us extra depth in multiple positions,” said Nunan. “Her toughness made us better on defense and her poise improved our offensive constancy.”
The Owls’ season came to an end last year at the hands of Blue Eye in the district championship game, 66-36. Hoping to revenge that loss will be a squad made up of youth and experience. Four seniors, a junior and three sophomores make up the roster for Spokane. Leading the way for Spokane will be 6-foot senior Paige Tate.
“We came together to beat a good NCA team and make it to a district championship,” said Tate, senior captain. “I think we have what it takes to win a district championship and a conference championship.”
Tate, who was named first-team all-conference and all-district, led the Owls in scoring with 20.3 points and rebounding with 14 boards a night.
“Paige is our number one option on offense and is one of the top post players in the area,” said Nunan. “She’s a smart player who finds ways to score despite battling double and triple teams constantly.”
Micayla McClure (5”5), Josie Jordan (5’9) and Jordyn Rollings (5’4) are the three other seniors that will join Tate this season.
McClure led the Owls in assists (3.3) and steals (3.1) last season. “She really sets the tone for both our offense and our defense,” said Nunan. “Her improved 3-point shooting and driving abilities made her a legitimate scoring threat, and her tenacity on defense helps us achieve our goals on that side of the floor.”
Jordan, a natural leader, is a vocal leader in the locker room. “She takes pride making the team better through rebounding and taking care of the basketball,” said Nunan. “She sneakily has the second most assists on the team from the post.”
New to the roster is senior Jordyn Rollings (5’4), a multisport athlete that will add intelligence and leadership to the Spokane roster. She will play multiple positions and add an element of toughness to the squad.
The lone junior this year is Madison Bonzer. Bonzer (5’7), a spark plug on both offense and defense, will be asked often to guard the opponent’s best player. “Her improved ball handling and shot-making ability make her a threat on offense and make us harder to guard as a team,” said Nunan.
Three sophomores will round out the roster including Raylen Wallace (5’6), Maggie Czachowski (5’8) and LeAndra Bell (5’8).
Wallace comes off an outstanding freshman season where she was named to the second-team all-conference and all-district teams. Wallace averaged 11.2 points per game and is dead on from the 3-point line; she had multiple 20 point games last year.
“She plays an intelligent style of basketball and understands how to take advantage of multiple situations,” said Nunan. “She’s a tough guard who finds ways to be successful beyond being a good shooter. Her playmaking ability and clutch shooting makes our offense multifaceted and difficult to guard.”
Maggie Czachowski’s minutes went up towards the end of her freshman season and the Owls are planning on her playing an important role during her sophomore season.
“She is a great athlete who finds success with her speed and quickness,” said Nunan. “Her improved offensive skills and extra experience will make her a valuable varsity basketball player and an important part of our team.”
LeAndra Bell has ability to be a successful post player and they are counting on her to add extra depth to the team this season.
“She is a smart basketball player and a really good passer from the post,” said Nunan. “Her ability to play extended minutes for us will be an important aspect of our team this upcoming season.”
For Spokane to be a serious conference and district championship contender they will have to get better at the defensive end and cut down on turnovers. The Owls will have a deeper bench with more experience which they hope will attain their goals.
The SWCL will once again be tough with a difficult path to the championship. Blue Eye and Crane seem to always be good and Sparta will be in the mix, as well. Spokane hopes that they can finish at the top of the SWCL and bring home the elusive district title.