By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ask Dale Patton how long he’s been coaching and he won’t give you a number, just a simple “too many” will be his response.
However, in his first year at Spokane, the always passionate Patton will have no shortage of reasons to be amped up entering the winter.
After leading Lamar to a district runner-up finish last season, Patton inherits a Spokane team from legendary coach Doug Hepler that won 20 games and also finished as a district runner-up.
The Lady Owls lost to eventual Class 2 state champion Skyline in districts, but return three key starters from that team.
After getting used to Hepler’s unique system, Spokane will now have to transition to Patton’s, which is typically the toughest part in Year One.
“Taking over a program is difficult in some ways,” said Patton. “The toughest part is installing your philosophy and hoping everyone will buy in.”
Patton will have one of the best guards in the Ozarks to build around in senior Casey Wallace.
The reigning SWCL Player of the Year is coming off of a junior campaign that saw her average nearly 19 points and knock down 104 3-pointers at a 48 percent clip.
Her role will not change much under Patton.
“Casey is a unbelievable shooter; she has a pure passion for the game and work ethic second to none,” said Patton. “It will be a lot of fun with her this year. She is one of those athletes that has already bought in to what I am selling and it will be exciting to watch her. A lot of college interest in her and it’s well deserved.”
Classmates Kaylee Armitage and Taylor Riott are also back after starting last year.
Armitage is the team’s returning rebound and assists leader after averaging 5.5 boards and three assists last year, to go along with 10.4 points.
Although she also shot 39% from 3-point land, Patton has been especially pleased with what he’s seen from her defensively.
“Kaylee is another who has already bought in will be an outstanding defender and is exceptionally quick,” said Patton. “It is a positive for us that our overall team speed is outstanding.”
Riott put up six points and 2.3 rebounds. Zabryna Hodges averaged six points last year as well.
Paige Tate, Josie Jordan, Micayla McClure and Lydia Davis will provide depth and likely see plenty of minutes this season.
Spokane’s numbers aren’t great, but the 10 kids out are good enough for this team to again compete in the best basketball area in Missouri.
Patton’s brand of basketball is defensively based to say the least. He’s hopeful fans will see a group that is ready to defend and get after people every night.
“We’re going to play tough defense,” said Patton. “Hard defense. And then we’ll play some more defense. Offensively we’ll be extremely disciplined.
“We just have to play solid on both ends of the court and I believe we can compete with the best of the best this year. I would like to see more out than the 10 we have, but we are competitive and thats all I can ask.”
Spokane opens the 2017-18 season in the Blue Eye Tournament on Nov. 27-Dec. 2.