By Chris Parker
East Newton girls basketball has steadily improved from three wins three seasons ago to six wins two seasons ago to 11 wins last year. Now the Patriots will take aim at the program’s first finish above .500 since 2016.
“We do have an opportunity to continue improving on that record. We have good experience coming back and played in a lot of close games last year that some went our way and some didn’t,” East Newton head coach Clayton Bagby said. “We need to use our experience in those games to be better at putting games away at the end this year. Also our turnovers need to continue to go down and shooting percentage up. We will be a smaller team this year so we will look to increase the tempo on the floor and try and utilize some of our athleticism.”
Junior Makenna Braiser along with sophomores Josie Guinn and Shaw Coburn will be team leaders this year.
Braiser averaged 4.2 points, 3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game last year.
“Makenna has been our starting point guard the last 2 years and we will look to her to be the leader on the floor going in to her third year,” Bagby said.
Coburn contributed 4.9 points per game as a freshman.
“Josie should be the best scorer on the team this year. As a freshman she started most the year when healthy and at the end of the year solidified her spot as the go to scorer offensively,” Bagby said.
Guinn dealt with injury and illness throughout the year, but still averaged 7 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. In her final 10 games, Guinn averaged 10 ppg.
“Shaw started almost all her games as a freshman and is a tremendous athlete and high energy player. She will also be looked to as a defensive stopper on the team,” Bagby said.
Juniors Alyssa Coffey and Kaytlyn Cook have both shown good improvement in the off-season.
“Alyssa got a couple of starts last year and was one of the first off the bench as a sophomore. She is a hard-nosed player and good rebounder. She put in a lot of time over the summer working on her shot and could be in store for a good offensive season,” Bagby said. “Kaytlyn lettered last year as a sophomore and earned more playing time down the stretch and in districts. She worked hard over the summer working to become a more consistent shooter. She should get lots of opportunity to show off her work this year.”
Junior forward Liz Barratt lettered last year. She will see an expanded role on varsity this year.
Alexa Harris-Schmidt will be a varsity newcomer to watch in her junior year.
Bagby is still working to iron out his team’s identity this year after COVID cut summer workouts short.
“With COVID we did not get the work in as a team we would have liked to this summer,” Bagby said. “The last couple of years we have been more of a half-court team, but we will look to improve our transition game and try and force more on the defensive side of the ball. We should have good shooters and athletic guards and will look to utilize them.”
East Newton opens the season on Nov. 23 at Joplin.
“I expect a lot of parity in the Big 8 West again, and we want to see another improved record, improvement in the conference standing, and a more consistent offensive team,” Bagby said.