By Angie Brushwood (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Lady Pirates finished 10-15 last season after a district tournament loss to Clever, 76-30. Going into his second year as head coach with five starters returning, Bryan Dean is eager to build on what he put into place last year.
Dean seeks to inspire with a cohesive message for the team.
“Last year’s saying was ‘We’re going to control what we can control,’” said Dean. “This year’s is ‘No excuses.’ Last year we got in there and got tested with the fire a little bit. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve pushed through. We really worked on those team and individual goals to build that foundation of our system.”
With only two losses to graduation and five returning starters, the Lady Pirates are eager to build on experience.
“We have upperclassmen now,” said Dean. “Last year we were young, and we weren’t very confident. We have people understanding their roles now and being great teammates. Some of the girls have had to play because our numbers were down. This year they want to keep that spot through competition, not letting anybody take it.”
Patsy Gorski, the only senior starter, adds height in the post at 5’10”. Gorski averaged 9 RPG and 8 PPG.
“Patsy is athletic as a post that can own the rebound and scoring columns,” said Dean. “I’m excited to see her competitive drive and leadership motivate the team.”
A group of four juniors return to varsity for the Lady Pirates. Two-year starter Kennedi Climer led in scoring with 12 PPG and earned 2nd team all Mid-Lakes Conference.
“Kennedi has a great IQ for the game,” said Dean. “She will have the ball in her hands a lot, and her experience will be important to guide the other ladies on the team.”
Juniors Riley Hammons (6 PPG, 4 RPG) and Taylor Spickard (4 PPG, 4 RPG) will provide offensive pressure.
“As a shooter, Riley will have to be key for us offensively,” said Dean. “Taylor is athletic and a great competitor. She will be asked to use her skill sets in the open court guarding and trapping the ball.”
MaKenna Johnson (5’5”) was sidelined most of last season with an injury, but Dean expects her to grow in confidence on the court this season.
Sophomore Emma Eagleburger adds height to the team at 5’9”. Eagleburger led in rebounds with 10 RPG and 10 PPG, earning honorable mention all Mid-Lakes Conference.
Sophomore Briley Bagley (5 PPG, 4 RPG) rounds out the Lady Pirates’ returning varsity players.
Mackenzie Lutz (5’8” soph.) and Khloe Moad add competitiveness will compete for spots with the Lady Pirates. Moad, a 6’0” freshman, will be competitive on offense and defense.
“Khloe’s length will complement the rest of our team. She loves to play the game,” said Dean.
A move to the Southwest Conference places Ash Grove on a schedule with teams better matched to the small district. Dean looks forward to the change.
“I really enjoyed the Mid-Lakes Conference because we were surrounded by great teams and competition and great coaches,” said Dean. “This new conference is going to be a plus. Across the board it will be pretty solid. We’re not getting into an easy road. We need to establish our identity in this conference with some aggressiveness and effort level.”
The Lady Pirates’ home opener is on Dec. 3 against Stockton.