The Fair Grove girls were a young team last year with just one senior on the roster, but they still were able to make it to the district semifinals before falling to Clever 63-59.
That experience gained in 2016-17 will pay dividends this season with almost all of the team returning.
“The girls gained so much experience and confidence last season. At the start so many of them were new to varsity and by the end of the season they were playing tons of varsity minutes. I could really tell a difference as we started working out this summer,” Fair Grove head coach Jenny Talbert said. “Our team chemistry was really good and we didn’t have to go through those ‘first time playing varsity’ jitters. It has been fun seeing these young girls grow throughout the program. I am so pleased with their effort and hard work in everything they do.”
Alana Findley returns for her junior season to lead the Lady Eagles. She is one of the most versatile players in the area coming off of a season where she averaged 19.7 points. 11.3 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 2.6 assists per game last year.
“I think the reason Alana can affect the game in so many ways is because she goes hard all the time, and she doesn’t take any plays off. Her motor is always running. She is so athletic and is capable of playing so many positions on the floor,” Talbert said. “We have enjoyed watching her leadership skills grow as well, and I think she has really embraced officially being an upperclassman. She knows she is going to draw lots of attention from other teams and she has worked on being able to figure out ways to distribute and contribute in many ways.”
The junior has 894 points and 624 rebounds through her first two seasons.
Classmate Harley Maxwell is also back to patrol the paint after averaging nine points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Both marks were second on the team.
“Harley worked really hard over the spring and summer. We know what she is capable of and we will count on her to really own the paint this year. We are excited for her junior year and know that she could have a breakout season,” Talbert said.
Senior Taylor Bell and junior Lexie Sutherland are two more returning starters at forward and guard. Bell put up 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as a junior. Sutherland was the team’s third-leading scorer with 6.6 points per game.
Alexus Rust (5-foot-4 junior guard), Cydney Fullerton (5-foot-6 junior shooting guard/power forward), Maddie Clark (5-foot-3 freshman guard), Jordan Coddington (5-foot-5 senior guard) and Bailee Morgan (5-foot-7 sophomore guard/forward) also return to give the Eagles a wealth of depth.
Fair Grove shares a conference with two defending state champions, but they still fully expect to compete for district and conference titles.
“We expect to compete for a conference title and a district title. We know that we play in the toughest conference and the toughest district, but we know that we can be right up there with those teams,” Talbert said. “Our schedule is built to prepare us for the postseason and we have every intention of being involved in those big games down the stretch.”
Fair Grove opens the season on Nov. 21 at Mountain Grove.