By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 2019-20 season will go down as a great one for the Norwood High School girls’ basketball team.
The Lady Pirates won a district championship for the first time in 14 years. They also won 20 or more games for the third time in five years.
Despite some significant lineup changes ahead, the Lady Pirates are aiming for another postseason push.
Norwood’s returning lineup features a pair of seniors in twins Sierra Cornelison and Keyera Cornelison.
Both are strong defensive players who will see increased roles this season.
Sierra is a two-year starter. Keyera led Norwood in field goal percentage last season, shooting 53% from the field.
“Sierra has a good shot beyond the arc and knows the game well,” said Norwood coach Shannon Crain. “Keyera’s an undersized post player who has the grit to make up for any height lost.”
Junior guard Cassie Chadwell is Norwood’s top returning scorer. She averaged 7.1 points per game last season and led Norwood in charges drawn with 12.
“She is able to drive as well as shoot from the outside,” Crain said. “We have high expectations that this will be her breakout year.”
Sophomore Cassie Wright will take over the point guard role for Norwood. She’s also a proven threat from deep after shooting 57% on 3-pointers as a freshman.
“She has lots of ability with her quickness,” Crain said. “Toward the end of season, she started gaining more confidence.”
Last season, the Lady Pirates defeated Chadwick 46-37 in the Class 1 District 4 Tournament finals. It was Norwood’s first district title since 2006.
Norwood would go on to lose by two (47-45) to South Iron in the Class 1 sectional round and finish 20-6 overall.
Norwood graduated a small but outstanding senior class in Josie Sullivan, Payton Drake and Dakota Anderson.
Sullivan finished as Norwood’s third all-time leading scorer.
She did it all for Norwood last season, leading the Lady Pirates in points (19.1 ppg), rebounds (11.1 rpg), steals and blocked shots. Sullivan was named to the Class 1 all-state team.
“She was a scoring threat both inside and out,” Crain said. “Her athleticism will be hard to replace.”
Sullivan now plays for Baptist Bible College in Springfield.
Drake was a dynamic passer who helped run Norwood’s offense. She tallied a team-high 118 assists.
“Her passing ability will be hard to replace,” Crain said. “Payton knew the game well and the strategies that go along with it.”
Anderson was a three-year varsity player and filled a valuable role off the bench.
“She contributed greatly to our rebounding and had a couple of games where she started,” Crain said.
The Lady Pirates will also be missing a major piece from their lineup in sophomore Kaytlynn Drake. She suffered a knee injury over the summer and will miss the season.
Kaytlynn Drake had a phenomenal rookie season as Norwood’s point guard.
She made a team-high 65 3-pointers and set a school record for most total points as a freshman. She was Norwood’s second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game.
“We pray she will recover well and be ready for another strong season next year as a junior,” Crain said.
Newcomers to watch include sophomore Chloe Tinsley, who will give Norwood depth and defense in the backcourt.
“She has a great attitude,” Crain said. “Chloe will need to be our defensive specialist.”
Freshmen Brooke Johnson and Hailey Hall could make an immediate impact.
Both attended junior high at Skyline last school year.
“These two will have to learn the varsity level quickly,” Crain said. “We have high hopes that they can step in immediately and contribute.”
Norwood opens the regular season November 23 at Chadwick.