By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Salem girls finished third in the SCA with five conference wins and a 16-11 overall record. Now the Lady Tigers start another formidable schedule and are ready to compete, knowing there will be no easy wins in the conference.
“The SCA was probably the strongest on the top end that we have seen in our seven years at Salem, as Mountain-View Liberty won the conference and the second place team, Thayer, won the Class 2 State Championship,” said Salem head coach Jake Reardon. “Last year’s schedule was the hardest our program has played in a long time, as 18 of 27 games were against above .500 teams. We lost to Union in an overtime loss in district play to end the season.”
The team lost four to graduation, including first team all-conference and all-district Taylor Norris, who now plays basketball for Missouri Baptist, but they return a host of experienced athletes.
Sophomore point guard Bella Jadwin earned an honorable mention all-conference nod last season, and is a high-motor player driven for team success. She directed the team while putting up 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.2 steals per game.
Madison Woolf is a 5’11” senior (8.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg). “She can impact all phases of the game and we are at our best when she makes her presence felt as a rebounder, defender, and driver,” said Coach Reardon.
Jana Cook (5’10”, senior) possesses a high basketball IQ. Cook is strong on fundamentals and intuitive on defense. She can play inside or outside on offense and involves her teammates well. “We need her as a steadying influence,” said Reardon.
As a sophomore, Tatum Hatridge averaged 5 points per game and has grown as a player in the off-season. Her rebounding is more impactful and she can defend bigger opponents. Hatridge can also drive and hit from the outside and can get teammates open.
Junior Shelby Botkin is a high-energy hustle player. Speed, athleticism, and motor make her a difficult defender and an effective rebounder despite standing at 5’4”.
Nina Howard is a competitive senior who can drive and shoot.
The freshman class is expected to contribute varsity minutes, especially Savannah Manthey, Ashton Bowers, and Avery Erway early in the season. Savannah is a solid all-around player with good athleticism and speed and can protect the ball on the offensive end. Ashton has speed and athleticism and will help on both sides of the ball, and Avery is a high-energy player with a nose for the ball, able to guard in the post or against guards and “has excellent instincts,” per her coach.
Other newcomers include freshman Makayla Roos, a freshman with competitive mentality and outside shooting ability; Cayleigh Moody, a freshman who contributes on both sides of the ball; and Jaden Flores, a 6’0” sophomore inside presence who can bother opponents with her length on the defensive end.
“We are a small, but very quick and athletic team,” said Coach Reardon. “This roster might have the most team speed I have had over my career. For us to be successful, we will need to be able to defend and put a lot of pressure on our opponents with that athleticism. On the offensive side of things, we will try to get up and down the floor to use our speed. We will have a fairly young roster, but they have a good basketball IQ and understand what we are trying to do on both ends.”
The Lady Tigers open their season at Plato on November 25.