Polk County’s area girls’ basketball programs are just days away from starting their 2020-21 seasons, and each team will be looking to make better on their time on the court this year after all but one finished with losing records.
Last year was a rough year for Fair Play girls basketball, coach Alicia Mercer is quick to acknowledge.
“We had lost some key players, and we were trying to find our new us,” she said. “I think that this year is going to be a better year because we have more experience with each other, and that means we have found a little more confidence in who we are as a team.”
To help with that, Mercer said she’ll be able to count on several key returners, including seniors point guard Chyler Welch, an all-state softball player, and inside player Jenna Viles.
Sophomore Riley Tennyson will also “make a difference in our play,” Mercer said.
The team also features three freshmen, Anna Grove, Ashlynne Kirksy and Cheyene West
“I think they will help us this year, as well,” Mercer said.
The Lady Hornets open their season Monday, Nov. 23, at the Fair Play Girls tournament.
Last season, Halfway girls basketball proved the strongest area team in Polk County, finishing 16-10 after advancing to the second round of the district tournament where the Lady Cardinals lost to eventual state champion Walnut Grove.
Halfway’s 2019-20 track record includes wins over every other Polk County area team, and the Lady Cardinals can count on several members of last year’s successful squad to return to the court this season.
Key among them are seniors Madison Higginbotham and Kendall Morris.
Juniors Bailey Black and Elavia Sharp will also start their third year on the court as Halfway opens its season Monday, Nov. 23, at the Fair Play Girls Tournament.
After a stellar 2018-19 season, Humansville struggled in 2019-20.
The Lady Tigers didn’t win a game last season, finishing 0-25. The program’s closest loss was a 31-22 game against Hermitage.
After a year of tough experiences, Humansville will look to reverse those fortunes starting when the Lady Tigers face Niangua at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, in Humansville.
The team remains young and will likely feature sophomores Nevaeh White, Kayci Payne, Maliah Kenney, Hallie Hogan and Kayllie Fowler.
Marion C. Early
MCE girls’ basketball claimed a number of milestone wins last season but also saw its share of struggles, including failing to break .500.
The Lady Panthers owned early season wins over Halfway and Pleasant Hope but lost to the Lady Cardinals later in the year and finished 12-14.
Several key returners will help the program as it works to improve, including juniors Libby and Karley Painter and Olivia Blehm. Sophomore Lauren Taylor and freshmen Taylor Blehm, Hailey Presley and Maggie Painter also featured on the Lady Panthers’ district champion softball team this year.
MCE opens its season Monday, Nov. 23, at the Fair Play Girls Tournament.
This year, Pleasant Hope will be led by former assistant coach Kami Bohnstedt, who takes over for Brent Offerdahl.
Bohnstedt said she believes the program can improve over several of its close losses last year.
“I felt we lost a lot of games by 3 to 5 points that we should have won,” she said. “My hopes for this year is to be on the winning side of those games we lost by a handful of points. I am hoping we learn to play at a smarter tempo, less turnovers and a higher percentage of made shots.”
Pleasant Hope’s first chance to make good on those plans is Monday, Nov. 23, at the Fair Play Girls Tournament.
To do that, Bohnstedt said she’ll look to utilize six varsity returners — Kylie Tucker, a starter and all-rounder who was named to the conference’s honorable mention list, Jaylin Miner, another honorable mention player with speed for steals and the ability to drive to the basket, Rachel Jenkins, a smart player with a good feel for tempo, inside shooter and rebounder Abbey Swearengin, Alexis Daugherty and Cheyenne Wolf.
“I also have one freshman that joined the team this year, Graci Wolf,” Bohnstedt said. “Graci reminds me of Kylie Tucker. She plays with intensity and is an all around player.”