By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Few programs have won more games than Dora over the past two seasons. And entering 2019-20, with all five starters returning, no program will have higher expectations than the Falcons after last year’s 30-2 Class 1 runner-up finish.
Still looking for its first state championship in program history, last year’s Final Four run was a special trip for Dora, made even more special by the fact Rick Luna had zero seniors on last year’s roster.
“We had a tremendous amount of support from the community,” said Luna. “This team has a huge following not only our school but from other areas as well. It was amazing to see people that don’t normally come to ballgames, come out. Personally, it was a great ride.
“I have coached this group since they were four years old. I know how bad they want to win and compete each night. They are very unique in that way. They all have motors and never give up. I have won a state championship in baseball as a coach and would have loved to won one in basketball with this group. We have two more chances, so hopefully we can get back.”
The odds of a return trip are extremely high on paper, thanks to the return of Isaac Haney and the Luna Triples Bryson, Mason and Auston.
As a quartet, they’ve won more than 400 games together since the age of four, rarely competing against age-level competition. It’s why the Falcons have been able to play with an edge and intensity that few have been able to match.
Haney is the headliner as the reigning Class 1 Player of the Year. As a sophomore he averaged 27.9 PPG and 3.3 SPG. He’s scored 1,563 points in his first two seasons and is on pace to be the sixth member of Missouri’s 3,000-point club.
He currently holds Division One offers from Texas State, Grambling State and Cleveland State.
“Isaac is a very unique and gifted player,” said Luna. “He is so shifty that defensively it’s hard to stay between him and the basket. He can fill it up from behind the arc or kill you with his penetration. There just aren’t very many holes in his game offensively. His best attribute that you can’t read in the stat line is his basketball IQ. He will beat you offensively because he understands your weakness.”
The Luna triplets are a highly competitive trio. While their games have their own individual flares, they also share the trait of making winning plays.
Bryson was an all-state selection, averaging 12.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.8 APG and 3.4 SPG. Mason added 11.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 5 APG and 3.4 SPG. Auston averaged a similar 7.8 PPG, 5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.4 SPG.
They stuff stat sheets and they win.
“All three have a very high basketball IQ and that alone as a coach is probably the most valuable aspect they bring to the game,” said Luna.
The sleeper in determining Dora’s success this season could be 6-foot-4 junior Waylon Masters. As a sophomore he averaged 7.1 PPG and 4.1 RPG. He’s expected to have an increased impact this winter.
“Waylon has put in a lot of work this summer and has really stepped his game up,” said Luna. “Down the stretch last year he was huge for us. He has a great work ethic and truly wants to get better every time he steps on the floor. I really feel he could be a double-double guy every night.”
Juniors Corey Murphy and Bo Collins are being counted on to provide post depth. Classmates Dylan Martin and Evan Smith will see minutes in the backcourt. Sophomores Jake Freiman and Landon Luna will also see rotational minutes.
All six saw varsity action last season.
Newcomer Tyler Luna will be the lone senior on the roster this year with a frame that can make an impact in the paint.
This season feels like championship or bust for the Falcons, which prompted Luna – who has never been known to duck tough opponents – to load his schedule even more. Dora will head to the Washington (Ill.) Tournament of Champions where they’ll see multiple Division One prospects. They’ll also see Oklahoma power Heritage Hall, led by 4-star guard Trey Alexander. Alexander currently holds offers from Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Lakeland, who lost in the Class 1 Elite Eight and Weaubleau, who was a 20-win Class 1 team that returns nearly everything, is also on the schedule.
With the one of the most experienced rosters in Missouri, Luna is hopeful an even tougher schedule will help his program as it prepares for a return trip to the Class 1 Final Four.
“Having that experience of a Final Four is great, but not getting the job done will motivate this bunch,” said Luna. “I have always liked challenging this group. Two years ago we played 10 state-ranked opponents and last year our schedule was about the same. This year will be the most difficult yet. We have a brutal schedule before Christmas break but this group loves the challenge.
“I don’t feel like we chase games as much as it is wanting to be better. This group has a target on their back and they thrive on it. They know that we will be getting everyone’s A-game night in and night out. We just want to continue to grow as a basketball team and hopefully put ourselves in position to make another deep run. We 100 percent know that it is not easy to get their but that’s why we load up our schedule. We don’t want any other school in our classification to be able to say they played a tougher schedule than what we have played. My guys should be game tested by the end of the season.”
Dora will open the 2019-20 season on Nov. 27 at the Washington (Ill.) Tournament of Champions against host Washington.