In case you missed our High School winter sports preview insert in our Wednesday November 24 edition, here is a recap of the upcoming season.
Branson High School Boys Basketball
This season there is hope for better results than last year. The Pirates ended last season starting five juniors Kyle Scharbrough, Kade Goodwin, Ethan Jones, Colton Cooper and Pilot Ascone, all of whom are returning with three other senior players to build the core of the team for this season.
With eight seniors and two juniors whose skills will make sure they see a lot of court time, the Pirates team also has some talented underclassmen who may see court time.
With a team which has been playing together for so long, the Pirate’s goal this season is to finish toward the top of a challenging Central Ozark Conference.
Branson High School Girls Basketball
A quartet of seniors return to lead the Lady Pirates; Chloe Grimm, Shelby Heil, Joanna Lansman and Rachel Riveros.
The core seniors are joined by juniors Ellie Hoenie and Quinn Swofford; and sophomores Taylor Foster, Maci Rogers, Rylie Hagston and Lillie Sever.
Last year guard Hadley Houston, then a sophomore, was ruled ineligible for varsity play following a move from nearby School of the Ozarks. This season, she will bring her all-around athleticism to the team.
Other players to watch are sophomore newcomers Avery Crouse, Sirena Carlson, Abby Deckard, Tatym Halbrook and Lindsay Gerleman.
The Lady Pirates hope this season will bring them the success which eluded them last year.
Reeds Spring High School Boys
Last year the Reeds Spring High School Boys Basketball won 11 games during the 2020-2021 season. This year the Wolves have a strong group of upperclassmen returning.
Coach Austin Kendrick said the team has several returning seniors and juniors, who have great team work with each other. Reeds Spring will rely almost solely on upperclassmen who have played basketball together for a long time.
“The team’s greatest strength will be its chemistry,” Kendrick said. There is a lot of trust and faith in each other. (I) hope the Wolves find a way to be a more dynamic offensive team,” Kendrick said. “They only averaged 48 points per game last year. They have to cut down on turnovers so they can have more opportunities to score.”
Reeds Spring High School Girls
The Lady Wolves basketball team is captained this year by seniors Jade Watson and Lexi Essick. The goal for the season is to lead Reeds Spring girls basketball to their first winning season in nine years.
Coach Jessica McNichols will be coaching the The Lady Wolves for her second season. The team hopes to improve under the coaching of McNichols and the leadership of Watson and Essicks.
Coach McNichols said the team needs to work on putting the pieces they have together in a consistent manner.
“The team needs to be more consistent,” McNichols said. “I believe the Lady Wolves will execute with energy.”
Hollister High School Boys Basketball
The Hollister Tigers had its most winning season in over a decade last year. The program increased its win total by nine for a season ending record of 19-7.
The Tigers are looking to bring the program even further in its wins under the leadership of coach Pete Leonard, who is working his sixth season with the Tigers.
Returning to the squad are one of the top duos in the area, senior Josh Barlow and junior Garrett Snyder.
Last season the Tigers lost to Ava in districts after defeating the Ava team during the regular season by 24 points. The squad lost five of their games by eight points or less which may push the team to rally this season.
Hollister High School Girls Basketball
The Lady Tigers will see a bunch of new faces as they go into the 2021-22 basketball season.
Last season, the Lady Tigers finished with a 20-7 record before losing to Ava in the district tournament semi-finals.
One of the new faces the squad will see is the new head coach Jeff Dishman, who has been coaching in different programs for the last 14 years. Dishman’s coaching resume includes five state championships.
“We have been working very hard as a group to get better on both ends of the floor. We have a long way to go to get to that point, where we as coaches think this team can be like at the end,” Dishman said. “The kids have been adjusting to everything different from what they are used to; it will take time and effort. We control the effort, we can’t control the time.”
Crane High School Boys Basketball
Last season the Crane Pirate boys basketball team were within one point of advancing to the Final Four. This year brings a new head coach, Denny Hunt, who replaces Kevin Smith. Smith is now coaching the Forsyth Panthers.
Hunt joins the Pirates after three years, the last two as head coach, at Springfield Catholic. In his career he is 387-279.
Hunt inherits a program which has won three consecutive Southwest Central League championships and routinely appears near the top of the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association state rankings for Class 2 schools.
The Pirates haven’t lost a regular-season Class 2 game since February 14, 2018. Their 13 losses since the 2018-19 season. Crane could be poised for another playoff run.
Crane High School Girls Basketball
Last season the Crane Lady Pirates had a record of 15-8.
The Lady Pirates will look to keep last season’s success with three returning seniors; Gracie Brawley, Danielle Cutbirth and Emrey Ellingsworth.Brawley, Cutbirth and Ellingsworth have stepped into leadership roles for the squad.
Forsyth High School Boys Basketball
The Forsyth Panthers head into the 2021-2022 basketball season with a plethora of new faces, which includes a new head coach.
Coach Kevin Smith, who has been coaching for 26 years, has made a move from the Crane Pirates to take over the Panthers. He has inherited a program which finished 14-13 last season.
“I think we will definitely look good getting off the bus,” Smith said. “But we have to see how we blend everyone’s talent together. Role development and team development will be key in accepting those positions. In our philosophy we will try to play good solid defense and try to play an uptempo when possible.”
Forsyth High School Girls Basketball
Last season was riddled with highs and lows for the Lady Panthers. They suffered due to COVID-19, injuries and snow cancellations. They finished the 2020-2021 season with a 15-7 overall record.
Forsyth was able to make it to the District Championship, but fell to Ava.
“I’m sure we will have some growing pains, but hope to get better each and every night and be playing our best by district time,” Rogers said. “We will have to rely heavily on our defense and keep teams off the board to be successful. We need to limit our turnovers and get quality possessions and shots. We will have a pretty young group, but I’m excited to see us grow and develop throughout the year.”
Blue Eye High School Boys Basketball
Blue Eye boys basketball has five returning starters which could help the Bulldogs continue their success from last year. The team finished the 2020-21 season with a record 12-11 overall.
The team has a trio of leaders with seniors Isaiah Mitchell, Lance Clark and Ryan Cardenzana.
After last year’s season, with no seniors to lead the team this year the Bulldogs can depend on this season’s seniors for leadership.
Coach Kyle Tuner will need all his players to focus on rebounds and rebounding.
Blue Eye High School Girls Basketball
The Lady Bulldogs have high expectations following their season last year where they competed for a conference championship and won their fourth straight district championship.
Last season Blue Eye, without any seniors on their squad, defeated Crane for the Class 2 District 11 title. They finished third in their second straight trip to the final four. The Lady Bulldogs finished 25-6 overall and 6-1 in the Southwest Central League.
With the success of a team without any seniors, the Lady Bulldogs will likely see the same or better results with their returning squad.