By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Four freshmen starters didn’t deter the Dora Falcons last season.
Now as sophomores, they’ve gotten bigger, faster and stronger.
Dora comes off a 24-win season, including road wins at Hartville and Walnut Grove. The Falcons’ season ended with a sectional loss to eventual Class 1 state champion Eminence.
Falcons coach Rick Luna is eager to see what lies ahead for his young squad.
“We feel like we will have a very good team again this season but realize we have a big target on our backs,” Luna said. “We had a great season (in 2017-18) but we also know we made a lot of freshman mistakes.
“We have to continue to develop as a team on both ends of the floor and continue to play our style of basketball.”
Dora finished 24-6 overall last season. Three of the Falcons’ six losses came against Eminence.
In a pair of regular season meetings, Dora played Eminence to single-digit outcomes (71-66 and 69-61).
Dora’s Isaac Haney, a 6-foot sophomore guard, emerged as one of the area’s rising stars last season. He averaged 22.5 point per game and is already receiving interest from Division-I basketball programs.
As a freshman, Haney finished with 675 points. Only JaRon Rush (733) scored more as a freshman in MSHSAA history.
Haney has also grown four inches since last season.
“Isaac is a very skilled and fundamental player,’ Luna said. “Offensively, there are not a lot of holes in his game.”
Triplets Byson, Mason and Auston Luna are back in Dora’s starting lineup as well.
Bryson (14.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Mason (12.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg) had similar stat lines. Bryson is Dora’s top defender, while Mason surpassed the 100 mark in four categories: points, rebounds, steals and assists.
Auston was the team’s top rebounder (7.0 rpg). He posted three triple-double performances last season.
All three are listed at 5’11” and averaged three or more steals per game as freshmen.
“Bryson guards the other team’s best player and is very versatile on the floor,” said Rick Luna, the triplets’ father. “He plays with a lot of heart and effort. Mason’s very athletic and plays both sides of the ball very well.
“Auston is the kid that put up good numbers but also does a lot of stuff on the floor that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s hit the weights hard to be even stronger and faster.”
Rick Luna enters his 13th season as Dora’s head coach. He surpassed 200 career wins last season when Dora beat Bradleyville to win the Class 1 District 5 tournament championship.
The Falcons graduated four players from that district-championship squad: Austin White (starter), Kaleb Harris, Rob Vigdal and Brent McKemie.
“Austin gave maximum effort. He did a lot of work on the inside that didn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Rick Luna said. “Kaleb was a very versatile guard. He came off the bench and gave us very valuable minutes.
“Rob was a set-shooter and energy guy off our bench. Brent was another sharpshooter but actually played the (forward or center) position defensively.”
One junior, three sophomores and one freshman will likely round out the varsity roster.
Junior Peyton Smith is making his return to the sport. Rick Luna thinks Smith can fill a point-guard like role for the Falcons.
“He handles the ball well, can shoot and will give us valuable minutes off the bench,” Rick Luna said.
The sophomores are Waylon Masters, Korey Murphy and Bo Collins. All three are 6’1” or taller and will give the Falcons additional size, athleticism and rebounding.
Colby Hoover, a 6’4”, 200-pound freshman, could make an instant impact for the Falcons with his size, strength and skills in the post.