By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jim Moore took the reins of Houston Lady Tiger basketball from veteran coach Brent Kell last year and led the team back to the district championship game, but Licking claimed the title, leaving the Lady Tigers with a 15-14 finish. Now the hometown boy looks to build on his team’s prior successes.
Houston lost five players to graduation, including standout Abby Casper. The team’s leading scorer was quick, athletic, and a good defender and will be difficult to replace. Stephani Crewse, Jayden Ramsey, Alyssa Hayes, and Emily Shea were also important assets to the team last season.
Houston returns a talented cast to the floor despite player losses. Katilyn Root, a 5’10” senior post player, earned all-district and all-conference honors last season and led the team in rebounds (6 rpg) for the second year in a row. She can score, rebound, and guard and averaged 12 ppg, and her skill set is earning her attention from several colleges. Fellow senior Chloe Hunninghake is a scoring threat, a talented shooter who can score quickly. Last year, she averaged 7 ppg and is expected to have an even bigger season.
“She will play a vital role in keeping teams from being able to pack the lane on us, “ said Coach Moore.
Senior Sevanna Rowland will run the point and is capable of scoring under the basket and from outside. Classmate Carly Crawford has put in offseason work to step up to her team’s expectations; according to her coach, she will play a huge role on defense and from the perimeter. She is quick and runs the floor well and has the ability to connect behind the arc.
Junior Ally Morgan is expected to have a breakout year. At 5’11”, the post player averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds per game last season and is expected to build on those numbers. Three more juniors are new faces to varsity: Kennedy Campbell, McKenzie Reber, and Madison Curtis. Campbell is an athletic and versatile six-foot player who can rebound as well as shoot from downtown. Reber is just a second year player, but at 6’1” she is intimidating in the lane and is becoming skilled at blocking shots.
“She is a game changer on the defensive end and continues to become an offensive threat as well,” said Moore. He described Curtis as the “spark plug” for the Lady Tigers. “She will bring much-needed energy to our team this year,” he said.
Hailey Heathington will be another new face in Houston; the 5’6” junior guard transferred from a successful program in Couch and is a deep shooter.
The Lady Tigers will strive to secure the top seed in districts by outplaying their key competitors in the regular season.
“We will need to set the tone on the defensive end of the floor this year,” said Coach Moore, adding that he will emphasize the importance of rebounding and guarding opponents well. “We want to make teams have to really execute their offense to score.”
Moore also knows the importance of camaraderie.
“I have a great group of girls and we want to really work on our team chemistry early to let it build the entire year,” he said.
Houston will be seeking to avenge their season-ending loss against Licking right away; the Lady Tigers host the Lady Wildcats in their home opener Dec. 4.