By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Following a 19-8 season, the Waynesville Lady Tigers have the pieces in place to return to the state tournament.
A year after falling 41-32 to Lebanon in the Class 5 District 10 championship, head coach Brittany Matlock feels her team’s considerable growth and maturity will help pave the way for another successful season and possible district title.
Matlock, now in her 11th season at the Waynesville helm, looks for continued improvement within her program in an extremely competitive district. Prior to the 2015-2016 season, the Lady Tigers went six straight seasons without a winning record.
“As with each year, if we can adjust to new roles, added responsibilities — both mental and physical — I would like to think the odds grow in our favor,” Matlock said. “Class 5, District 10 is Camdenton, Springfield Central, Lebanon, us and Willard — all of which are respected programs. As it is every year come district time, it is really open for anyone to win.”
For Waynesville to make another run in the district tournament, it will first need to replace a few players lost to graduation.
Nina Kizzee (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Ashton Pilz (7.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Payton Aragon and Chandler Jones helped Matlock are largely responsible for the school’s recent success.
“Nina has been our floor general for the past few years and always drew the toughest defensive assignment,” Matlock said. “Ashton was a great role player that was capable of knocking down big shots and made hustle plays; Payton tore her ACL mid-senior season, but was a great team player on and off the court; and Chandler played hard and was a solid defender.”
Kizzee, Pilz and Aragon are set to play in college this season for the University of Arkansas-Monticello, Evangel and Webster, respectively.
Despite the departures, the cupboard at Waynesville is far from empty.
The Lady Tigers return three senior starters from last season, including leading scorer and all-district selection Re’Shawna Stone (17.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 spg, 3.3 apg). Stone, a 5-foot-7 guard, topped 1,000 points for her career in last season’s district championship game and could threaten 1,500 with a solid 2017 outing.
“Re’Shawna will take on more of a leadership role this season,” Matlock said of her 5-foot-7 playmaker. “She has continued to work on her all-around game and continues to grow.”
All-Ozark conference honorable mention Kiara Shoulders (11.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Katie Handley (1.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) also give Waynesville much-needed experience and leadership on the roster.
“We focus on defense, and Kiara makes hustle plays and does a good job inside for us” Matlock said. “Katie is a solid defender who does the little things that don’t show up in a stat line.”
With a roster full of senior leaders and a schedule featuring Battle, Sullivan, Hickman and Union, Waynesville should be battle-tested once the postseason rolls around.
Whether or not the Lady Tigers are able to claim another district title depends largely on team chemistry, according to Matlock.
“While we have players returning, we still have to put the pieces together,” Matlock said. “We return several starters from last season that have been in our program for a while. I will look to them to help set the tone and transition some of our younger players.”
Waynesville opens jamboree play with Springfield Central at Camdenton Friday, Nov. 17. The Lady Tigers tip off the regular season Saturday, Dec. 2, at Battle.