By Chris Parker
Clint Gazette enters his fifth year coaching the Niangua girls with all the pieces in place for the Lady Cardinals to climb back above .500 after finishing 11-14 last season.
Two seniors return to lead Niangua in Jaycee Callaway and Dashawna Donaldson. Callaway averaged 10.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last season. Donaldson, who has become a more aggressive player, averaged 6.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Juniors Trista Crain and Taylor Kochs along with sophomores Ashton Stuber and Kaydance Knifong round out the returning varsity players for Niangau. All four are guards. Stuber led that group with 7.8 points per game last season.
Junior Maddison Kennedy joins Niangua after transferring in from Lutie. Gazette expects the freshmen trio of Allison Petty, Grace Medley and Addison Terry to make an immediate impact on varsity.
Gazette hopes defense will be a strength for Niangua.
“We really struggled last year stopping the drive. We should be fast enough and deep enough to play better defense. This should always be our strength because anyone can play defense,” Gazette said.
The Lady Cardinals will have to cut down on turnovers to after averaging 18.7 turnovers per game last season.
“I expect us to take another step forward. We have cornerstone seniors and a great group of freshmen, sophomores and freshmen. (There is) no reason why we can’t breakthrough and have a winning season this year. I think this is the year we break our district jinx as well,” Gazette said.
Niangua opens the season on Nov. 22 at home against Galena.