2017-18 Winter Preview: Neosho Girls Basketball

By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

After a strong start last season, Neosho faded late to finish with a 16-10 record. The Lady Wildcats ended the season with a 57-51 loss to Nixa in the Class 5 District 12 semifinal.

Heading into his fourth year at the helm, head coach Grant Berendt hopes to capitalize on last season’s growing pains.

Berendt will be without the services of a pair of graduated seniors in all-district guard Sydney Linny and Makenzie Lindsay. Linny, the team’s leading scorer last season, now plays at Crowder College.

“Sydney’s athleticism and ability to score will be hard to replace,” Berendt said. “Sydney had a great work ethic, and she really made big strides in her game.”

While Linny’s scoring will be missed, there’s plenty of firepower still on the roster for the Lady Wildcats with six returning seniors.

5-foot-8 guard Makayla Hayes (12.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg), 5-foot-6 guard Allison Burr (8.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg), 5-foot-8 forward Emillee Kivett (3.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), 5-foot-10 forward Caitlyn Jordon (12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg), 5-foot-3 guard Ashley Talley (2.7 ppg) and 5-foot-5 guard Tori Frazier (2.2 ppg).

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Hayes, an all-conference and all-district selection, will help lead Neosho as a versatile scorer and defender.

“Mikayla is one of our defensive leaders and a great communicator on the court,” Berendt said. “She is another player on this team that could play different spots.”

Impact newcomers to the roster include a pair of juniors in 5-foot-7 guard Madi Flynn and 5-foot-6 forward Gabee Rainwater. 5-foot-4 sophomore guard Mary Dunbar will also challenge for minutes.

With four returning starters and a host of senior leadership on the squad, Berendt has high expectations this season.

“I think one of our strengths is going to be our experience,” Berendt said. “We will be a veteran team that has seen the ups and downs of the COC and our district. I don’t think our kids will be shaken since most of them have been playing varsity full time since their freshman or sophomore year.”

For those expectations to be met, Neosho will need to stay healthy as it attempts to navigate an ultra-competitive conference and district schedule.

“You have to be at the top of your game each night in conference,” Berendt said. “This is the best high school girls conference in the state, and most of us have to beat a conference opponent in districts to advance. We have to stay healthy throughout this long season and let things fall where they will.”

Neosho opens jamboree play Nov. 12 at Parkview, along with Kickapoo and Clever. The Wildcats tip off the regular season Nov. 18 at Joplin.

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