By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 2018-19 season was a rebuilding one for the Cassville girls basketball team.
The Wildcats, after three-straight winning seasons and 22 wins in 2017-18, fell to 6-18 last year with just one junior and one senior on the roster.
“We were pretty young and pretty inexperienced,” said coach Thomas Hubbard, who is entering his second season at the helm.
Cassville is looking to take a big step forward this winter after playing a group of sophomores and even a few freshmen last year. And the Wildcats return a three-year starter in Madry McCrackin, a guard who earned second team All-Big 8 honors and was also an all-district player last year.
“She’s just a kid that understands the game,” Hubbard said. “She can shoot the ball very well for us from the outside and she’s actually a really decent player around the basket. I think she can be tough to guard. She can pretty much score anywhere. She’s a real good defender.”
McCrackin led the team in scoring last year, averaging 14.6 points per game and 3.1 rebounds. She scored 38 points in a game while connecting on eight three-pointers.
“She played with four very good seniors her sophomore year and wasn’t asked to do a whole bunch,” Hubbard said. “Then last year she was asked to do everything. Normally she had to guard the best player and obviously she was asked to score most of our points and take care of the ball a lot. There was a lot on her shoulders last year.”
Cassville returns a total of four starters, with juniors Kyren Postlewait, Lilly Harrison and Maddi Bowyer joining McCrackin in the starting lineup.
Postlewait, a guard, led the team with 6.1 rebounds per game and averaged 5.9 points. Harrison, a center, scored two points and grabbed 2.8 rebounds per game. Bowyer averaged three points and 4.1 rebounds along with 2.1 assists and two steals.
“Kyren is a multi-sport athlete, a kid that just works hard at everything she does and gives it her all,” Hubbard said. “She’s one that I think her development and her play is probably going to be a key factor for us. I know last year it seemed like the games we played well she usually played well and the games we struggled were games she was nonexistent. I’m hoping she plays more consistent this year. She doesn’t necessarily have to have great games but she has to have a presence and be a factor in games. If she does that I think that improves us a great deal.”
Hubbard wants to see Harrison increase her scoring this season; she was already a good defender last year. Bowyer could be a big factor on the defensive end this year, he said, and offensively she needs to take care of the ball a little better. If she improves her ball handling that could take some responsibilities off McCrackin’s plate.
Cassville’s other main returning player is sophomore Riley Morris, a post player who was the first one off the bench if she wasn’t in the starting lineup. She averaged 3.8 points and 3.5 rebounds.
“I don’t know what her ceiling is,” Hubbard said. “She’s probably our best athlete or second best athlete on the team. She’s still developing, still figuring out how to play and what her ability is. Last year she scored most of her points on offensive rebounds. The more active she is I think the better for us.”
Juniors Hallie Hackler and Summer Driver, both guards, also saw varsity time last year.
Cassville’s roster includes eight freshmen players, and Marianne McCrackin and Ashlynn Bryan could have an impact at the varsity level as well.
For the Wildcats to improve on last year’s win total the big thing will be more scoring and consistency. Last year Hubbard didn’t know where the scoring would come from on a given night besides McCrackin. This year he wants a few players to consistently score something like eight points a game.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball better than we did last year,” he said. “We had a lot of silly unforced turnovers.
“This summer our kids were a little more poised, more confident,” he said. “If we can just knock off some of that silly stuff and reduce our turnovers, maybe a little better shot selection. This year maybe we can be more selective and take higher percentage shots.”
The team averaged 36 points per game last year and shot 31 percent as a team. Cassville shot just 22 percent from three-point range and averaged 22 turnovers.
“I think our kids feel they’re in more of a position to compete this year every game and they know that they’re good enough to play with anybody if we play well,” Hubbard said. “Last year we played some very good teams and if we played very well we weren’t going to compete with them. This year they understand that the gap is closer now and a lot of it is going to fall on us and how we play. We can play well and maybe beat some teams that are better than us and maybe not play as well and still pull out some wins just because we are definitely better.”
Cassville will open the season against a pair of Central Ozark Conference opponents with a road game at Joplin on Nov. 22 and a game against Neosho on Dec. 10 in the Carthage Invitational.