Humansville High School girls basketball is looking for a way to play the tough hand it was dealt for the 2019-20 season.

The team, which held the best record of any girls team in the Polk County League last year, lost five starters — all seniors — to graduation.

Only senior Jahnna Essex returns from last year’s team.

“She played for the first time last year and was our sixth man,” coach Miranda Chaney said. “She learned a lot last year and will be our senior leader this year. She does a good job keeping our freshmen focused and pushes them to get better.”

Last year’s 14-12 squad is 0-4 this season as of Saturday, Jan. 4, according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association website. 

The Lady Tigers’ struggles on the court were on display Friday, Jan. 3, in their 18-57 loss to Pleasant Hope. 

The six-person squad started off the year at a disadvantage, Chaney said. 

“We did not get to do a lot of team basketball in the off season due to limited numbers,” she said. “We have kids that are brand new to basketball, and we are young. We have a big group of eighth graders to join our five freshmen next year. Our focus is learning the game, working on fundamentals and gaining confidence and experience.”

The Lady Tigers were behind 6-16 after the first quarter Friday and down 12-28 at halftime. 

Chaney said the team was able to keep pace early on defense but struggled to keep up with a limited bench to draw from in the second half.

“We’re still trying to learn that being tired isn’t an excuse,” she said.

Freshman Maliah Kenney scored 17 of the team’s 18 total points. Chaney said the ninth grader had previously played basketball and brought experience that has bolstered the team.

Through the team’s struggles, Chaney said freshmen Kayci Payne, Kaylie Fowler, Nevaeh White and Hallie Hogan have come to practice ready to work and learn each day. 

“We’ve been getting it taken to us each night, but you can see them gain confidence and improve with each practice,” she said.

It’s a tough year, she acknowledged, but the fortitude each team member has displayed by coming back ready to move on to the next play and the next game is inspiring, she said. 

“We know we are young and inexperienced,” she said. “This year will be about learning and getting better. The girls have not backed down to this challenge. They push each other hard and come with a positive attitude everyday.” 

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