By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Basketball fans in the Ozarks know that when a Shelly Jones-coached team takes the floor, it is going to leave everything on the court – and this year should be no different.
“I expect us to be the best version of us,” said Jones, who enters her sixth season as Marshfield Lady Jays head coach. “Where we land is a mystery at the moment, but I fully expect us to viciously compete every game.”
The Lady Jays finished 9-16 overall in 2016-17, snapping their string of seven-straight winning seasons. On the plus side, Marshfield will have veteran leadership with six returning seniors this coming season.
Zoe Bisby, a second-team All-Central Ozark Conference-Small selection last year, leads the way along with Kaylah Cottengim, Katie French, Josie Harleman, Haven Letterman and Emma Tibbs.
“One of our strengths this season will be experience and youthful athleticism,” Jones said. “Practices should be a battle, which will prepare us for games.”
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The Lady Jays did lose two key components from last year’s squad in Caitlin King and Savanna Vance. King has joined her sister, Taylor, on the Hannibal-LaGrange University basketball team, and Vance was a first-team All-COC and All-District pick.
“Their leadership both on and off the floor will be missed greatly, as well as their work ethic,” Jones said.
As the Lady Jays head into this season, Jones said her team will need to overcome the obstacles that may pop up during the season.
“We lost in the semifinals of (Class 4, District 9) to Rogersville (49-27),” Jones said. “We always strive to be better. Our challenges were injuries throughout the season. Learning our roles and staying healthy (will be key). We will continue to discuss proper nutrition and sleep.”
But, just as important is “selflessness,” Jones said. “Always the key ingredient for great teams.”
Marshfield’s first game will be against Rolla in the Rolla Shootout on Nov. 18. The Lady Jays will also be competing in the Ash Grove Tournament (Nov. 27-De. 2), the Pink and White Lady Classic (Dec. 26-29) and the Rogersville Tournament (Jan. 15-19, 2018).
To Jones, every game is important.
“I am so center-focused that the game we are playing is the only game that matters,” Jones said, “and they ALL matter.”