By Chris Parker
Niangua girls basketball posted the program’s first winning record in more than a decade last year with a 13-12 finish. This year, the Lady Cardinals will look for even more with a strong core of players returning.
Seniors Ashton Stuber (point guard) and Kaydance Knifong (wing) along with sophomore Ashtyn Callaway will be the team’s leaders.
Stuber is a senior point guard that was the team’s second-leading scorer last year. She averaged 10 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last year on her way to second-team all-conference honors.
“Ashton does a great job of getting others involved, sometimes to the detriment of her own stats, but that’s what good teammates do,” Niangua head coach Clint Gazette said.
Knifong contributed 6.8 points, 2.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last year.
“Kaydance is our fire, defensive specialist who can score, rebound and run the floor faster than most kids out there,” Gazette said. “Again another player who gives up her own stats for her teammates with a lethal passing ability.”
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Callaway led Niangua in scoring last year with 15 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last year. She scored 371 total points as a freshman on her way to first-team all-conference honors.
“Ashtyn was the leading scorer and rebounder as a freshman,” Gazette said. “She has game for days and has started taking control of the mental side of the game. Ashtyn can score on all three levels and her senior teammates find her as she presents herself better and better every time out.”
Allie Petty (junior wing), Addison Terry (junior wing) and Grace Medley (junior wing) also return to the varsity lineup.
Gazette on Petty: “Allie Petty came off the bench and started several games. Excellent shooter who plays with a calm demeanor. Allie is very hard to rattle and this year she will be asked to play a boat load of minutes. Allie was the second leading three-point shooter on the team but will need to double her attempts if we are going to have another winning season.”
Gazette on Terry: “Addison Terry started a few games. Addison would have streaks of great offensive games and then games where she did not score as well. We will need her to be more consistent this year and prove she can handle the speed. Bouncy defender who backs down to no one, even with her small frame. She has become a difference maker on defense and her offense is coming along nicely.”
Gazette on Medley: “Grace Medley is another bouncy guard-wing type. Excellent wingspan and can shoot the ball well. The difference maker for Grace and this team will be her desire. Grace has all the tools and can put this team over the top with just her athletic ability and confidence. Great shooter and very good defender.”
Alisa Moore will be a freshman who is expected to contribute this year.
“Alisa started playing basketball in sixth grade. If she continues her growth she will be a very productive member of this team before her career ends,” Gazette said. “She has yet to see high school speed, so there will be a learning curve. However, with a short bench, she will get thrown to fire early and often. The best thing about Alisa is she has the desire to get better every day in practice.”
Niangua will lack depth this year, so the Cardinals will have to be a tough team on the court.
“I think our identity is toughness,” Gazette said. “We have very few players this year. There will be no crying, no one to feel sorry for us. We will have to show up, pull up our work boots and get after it.”
Niangua opens the season on Nov. 19 at home against Galena with the goal of starting a streak of winning seasons.
“We finally finished over the .500 mark, we do not intend to look back now. We have worked entirely too hard,” Gazette said.