By Chris Parker
Area volleyball coaching veteran Becky Justis will be trying her hand as a basketball coach for the first time this year taking over as head coach of the Spokane Lady Owls.
“I have been a head volleyball coach for many years. I have five Final Four trips in a row and one state championship, district titles, conference titles, etc. Even though this is a different sport, I coach it the same way I do volleyball with the exception of the X’s and O’s,” Justis said. “It is going to be a learning curve for everyone. While I wasn’t looking to get back into coaching, it happened, and we will give it everything we got. I am surrounded by an amazing assistant coach and another assistant coach I will have for a while in Paige Tate, who is the school record holder in points and rebounds. They both will be very involved in helping the girls to learn and grow in their game.”
She takes over a team that has posted a winning season in six of the past seven seasons including a 16-10 record last year.
The Lady Owls return just one varsity player in junior Raylen Wallace. Wallace averaged 14.1 points and 3.5 assists per game last year while knocking down 64 3-point shots.
“She will be the one we rely upon heavily both offensively and defensively,” Justis said. “She has such a high basketball IQ that she will also be relied upon to help the girls as playing happens.”
Wallace’s freshman sister Tristen will make an immediate varsity impact.
“Even though she (Wallace) is a freshman, her knowledge of the game and with her skill, she will also be relied upon to produce offensively,” Justis said.
Madison King, Sydney Bryan and Ellison Merhoff round out the freshman class. King was a state cross country qualifier. Sophomore Dakota Van Loan will also be a key player.
“All of these players are athletic, but are going to have to learn the game quickly and just develop,” Justis said. “I love their heart and their attitude and work ethic, they are just going to need time to grow.”
Spokane won’t be a very deep team, so staying out of foul trouble will be key.
“We will be young, but I hope we are fun to watch,” Justis said. “Even with limited number of players, I hope to work hard defensively which will allow us to transition quickly. We have athleticism, we just have to be smart with fouls.”
Spokane opens the season on Nov. 23 at Monett.
“We will be young and developing. We want to see progress. We will be encouraging and great teammates. We hope to get some wins under our belt. Our schedule is pretty tough. My biggest thing is we just have to stay healthy because our numbers are limited,” Justis said.