By Angie Brushwood (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Lady Pirates finished 12-15 last season after a 50-36 district quarterfinal loss to Springfield Catholic. Bryan Dean, an alumnus and three-sport Pirates athlete, steps in this season as head coach of the Lady Pirates.
The Lady Pirates will be a young team this year, and Dean plans to change their approach in order to adapt.
“We are changing the philosophies to fit the youth and experience of our team,” said Dean. “Our philosophy for the season is that we need to control what we can control, for example our attitude and work ethic. Every moment throughout the season is going to be a teachable opportunity, so the ability to learn and apply in these moments will only strengthen our foundation within our program.”
Graduates Mallory Keith, Sydnee Cashio, and Stefanie Duncan leave big holes on the Lady Pirates’ team. Keith was All-Mid-Lakes First-Team, and Cashio earned All-Mid-Lakes Honorable Mention. Duncan was All-State Academic.
Keith finished her career as a top five Lady Pirates player, with 1,279 points. Keith averaged 23 ppg, made 143 three’s, 254 steals, and 286 assists.
“She was a great example for our Lady Pirates basketball program,” said Dean. “Her dedication to the game, team, and program will be greatly missed, but she has instilled a great legacy to continue.”
Kennadi Climer is the only returning varsity starter. She bring back averages of 7.0 points and 3.0 assists per game. Dean is confident the 5’4” sophomore has the skills to lead.
“Kennadi has a great IQ for the game,” said Dean. “She should be gearing up for a great year. She will have the ball in her hands a lot and her experience will be important to guide the other ladies on the team.”
Junior Patsy Gorski (5’10”) averaged 5 ppg and 5 apg last season.
“Patsy is really starting to come alive with her athletic ability as a post that can own the rebound and scoring columns,” said Dean. “I’m excited to see how she grows this year.”
Sophomore Riley Hammons (5’6”) averaged 4 ppg and 2 apg and will likely step into a starting position.
“Riley is athletic, which will be used guarding in the open court as well as the post. She will have to be a key contributor for us offensively,” said Dean.
Senior Kylee Byrom (5’8”) will play post and will be relied on for rebound, screen, and guard.
The Lady Tigers will lean on younger players this season.
“This season will consist of replacing a bulk of our experience with young players,” said Dean. “We leaned heavily on our seniors in minutes per game last year, which leaves a large void in experience on the floor. The strengthening of our basketball IQ will be the difference in every game and our season.”
Incoming freshmen Emma Eagleburger (5’9”), Briley Bagley (5’4”), Mackenzie McThompson (5’4”), and Olivia Steimel (5’9”) bring fresh talent to the Lady Tigers.
Sophomores Makenna Johnson (5’5”) and Taylor Spickard (5’5”) round out the Lady Tigers lineup.
“Makenna is a smart player who will expand her confidence on both sides of the court,” said Dean. “Taylor is athletic and a great competitor. She will be asked to use her skill sets on the open court guarding and trapping the ball.”
Junior Kenzie Wilson (5’2”) from Everton brings one year of varsity experience and will play point guard.
“She will be another upperclassman that brings experience to the court,” said Dean. “She will help with the duties of handling the ball.”
Dean is confident the Lady Pirates will live up to the team’s legacy.
“The growth of our team will be built through our tough defensive mindset and the development of our basketball IQ,” said Dean. “Defense is going to be our foundation for the program, which plays right into our philosophy for the season. Developing the IQ through fundamentals and skill set, and understanding the system will be key for each game throughout the season.”
Ash Grove’s will host Lockwood on November 20. Dean plans to avoid the distraction of looking too far ahead.
“We aren’t going to worry about our conference race, key match-ups, or district tournament. We are going to take it a day at a time, enjoying the game and teammates, focusing on our strengths, addressing our weaknesses, and let everything else take care of itself.”