By Chris Parker
Missouri Sports Hall of Famer Lynn Long returns as a head coach this year taking over the Conway Girls Basketball program. Long enters his 42nd season as a high school varsity coach with 22 years as a boys head coach and 20 years as a girls head coach.
He watched the Lady Bears in their district tournament last year, which is what brought him to take over as head coach this year.
“I watched them play in their district tournament last year and was impressed with all the young talent that they had coming up, and I know a lot of people who were familiar with the program and they all had good things to say about it,” Long said.
Conway has experienced back-to-back seven-win seasons, which is something Long is looking to change.
“We need to change the culture to one of expecting to be successful, and be willing to do the things that successful teams do,” Long said. “I am confident that our players will buy in to what we ask them to do and we have enough talent and depth to succeed.”
Junior Graceson Cromer returns after earning first-team all-conference honors as a sophomore. She averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds per game while knocking down more than 50 3-point shots.
“Graceson is very athletic. She is quick, strong and has a lot of skills,” Long said. “I expect her to be one of the best players in the area. I think she will lead us to a winning season, both with her scoring, leadership, competitiveness and defense.”
Jameson Cromer and Emily Lewis will be two leaders for the team. Cromer, the team’s best shooter, hit more than 60 3-point shots last year on her way to a scoring average of 9.5 ppg. Lewis added in 3.5 points and 5 rebounds per game. She serves as a vocal leader.
Breanna Thompson is a sophomore post player returns after missing most of her freshman year due to a torn ACL. She is a strong rebounder who runs the floor well. Lakyn Shelton is a strong defender who can shoot inside or outside. Shelton averaged 4 ppg last year.
Hayley Williams is a senior who is aggressive on offense and is a good rebounder. Classmate Brooke Dill brings quickness and great instincts, which will be assets in Conway’s press.
Sophomores Reese Atkison, Gracey Vestal and Makenna Shifflet along with freshman Lauren Wissabaum will look to make an impact on varsity. Atikson is a transfer from Marshfield who is quick and aggressive. Vestal is one of the team’s top shooters. Shifflet is also a guard who shoots the three well. Wissbaum will make her mark in the post.
“We will play up-tempo using various presses on defense, and try to run at every opportunity on offense. We should have enough depth to fatigue our opponents,” Long said.
Conway opens the season on Nov. 23 at Cabool.
“I expect us to improve as the season goes along and be competitive in both our conference and district,” Long said. “We have the potential to be a very good team before the season is over.”