Returning four starters from that team, expectations are high for the 2002-2003 season.
"We're excited about the season," said Sikeston head coach Lee Brooks. "I don't think this team fears anybody. When the players talk, they don't talk about the lesser teams. They talk about the big ones, like the Jacksons, the (Poplar) Bluffs, the Notre Dames and the Kellys."
The biggest reason for all the excitement is the return of Joy Daniel. The 5-foot-10 forward dominated the post as a junior, leading Sikeston to upset wins over Perryville and Doniphan in the district tournament. She led the team in rebounds (124), blocks (19) and averaged 9.5 points per game. This year she comes back stronger, after a solid off-season in the weight room.
"I think Joy is the strongest player in the conference," said Brooks. "We are going to depend on her a whole lot. She is a good shooter from 10 feet in. She's so strong, I don't think anybody can stop her. The only person that can stop Joy Daniel is Joy Daniel."
Junior Jennifer Medlin also plays a big part in Sikeston's offense. The 5-foot-10 forward is the top shooter on the team, but is also big enough to score inside. She led the Lady Bulldogs in scoring with 13 points per game.
"I think Jennifer has matured a whole lot," said Brooks. "I haven't seen the emotional part of her that we saw last year. I think she's ready to play ball. People don't realize how many rebounds Jennifer got last year. She gets in there and works hard. She really wants to help lead this team back to the district (title game)."
In the championship against Fredericktown, Medlin led Sikeston with 19 points, hitting three 3-pointers. Another top returner is senior Stephanie Clark, a 5-foot-5 guard.
"She's the quietest person on the floor, but I really think she could be my key player," said Brooks. "Last year she had the shoulder problem, but she's back 100 percent. She is really dedicated to it right now. She might end up being my leader."
Kerri Jones is another returning starter. She is out of action at this point, nursing a pulled hamstring. When she returns, she is expected to make an immediate impact. The Lady Bulldogs lost three seniors to graduation, most notably point guard Summer Ray. Freshman Paige Silverthorn will bypass the junior varsity team and step directly into the varsity lineup to help fill the void.
"She's a good, solid player," said Brooks. "She will be the first person I've had that won't play jayvee ball. She's got some things to learn."
Other players expected to see extensive playing time include Ashley Johnson, Mia Welch, Berneatress Hunt, Robyn Morris, Allison Blurton and Nyketia Johnson.
So will this year's team be as good or better than last year's team?
"I don't know," said Brooks. "I think we can if we find a leader. Summer Ray did a great job last year and I have to give her a lot of the credit. This year, we've got the talent, but you don't know how it's going to go until the season starts."
With the new enrollment breaks, Sikeston is in Class 4, District 1 along with Dexter, Fredericktown, Notre Dame, Perryville and Ste. Genevieve.
The Lady Bulldogs open the 2002-2003 season Dec. 2 at Portageville.
"This team will get better as the year goes on," said Brooks. "I'm impressed with how hard the girls work every day in practice."
DEXTER -- The Lady Bearcats are coming off their best season ever, where they posted a school-record 17 victories. Considering that entire team returns intact, expectations are high this year in Dexter.
"This group of girls has worked together now for three years," said head coach Gavin Miller. "We've seen improvement each year, from 11 wins to 13 to 17. We just want to take it game by game and improve every night."
Katie Dunlap (5-11, sr.) returns after averaging 15 points and nine rebounds last year. Standout Amy Rose (5-7, sr.) should also play a major role in the Lady Bearcats' season.
Stephanie Rose (5-9, sr.), Amy's twin, put up eight points a game last year as a junior. Junior point guard Hannah Burleson (5-5) has worked hard in the offseason to develop a 3-point shot. She averaged eight points a game as a sophomore.
Sophomore Rachel Blunt (6-0) came on strong at the end of last year, leading the Lady Bearcats in scoring the last two district games.
Amy Krapu (6-2, sr.), Lauren Hutchcraft (5-5, sr.), Charlotte Johnson (5-6, jr.) and Megan Bishop (5-10, sr.) will also figure into the mix.
With the new enrollment breaks, Dexter is in Class 4, District 1 along with Fredericktown, Notre Dame, Perryville, Sikeston and Ste. Genevieve.
Dexter opens the 2002-2003 season on Monday, hosting Caruthersville.
CHARLESTON -- Varsity football coach Brent Anderson takes over as head girls basketball coach at Charleston, hoping to build on last year's breakthrough 20-4 season.
A big part of that team returns this year with 6-foot-1 center Missy Whitney. Last year as a sophomore, Whitney was dominant in the post, averaging 18.6 points, eight rebounds, two steals and 1.3 blocked shots a night.
She shot 55 percent from the field and 68 percent from the free throw line. Senior point guard Dre-Elle Mathis is also back, after putting up eight points with five assists a night as a junior.
Other key players include Leslie Hall (5-7, jr.), Fleeter Quinn (5-6, jr.), Gina Johnson (5-4, jr.), Charnette Williams (5-2, jr.), Katara Moore (5-5, so.) and Gina Ponder (5-11, so.)
With the new enrollment breaks, Charleston is in Class 3, District 2 along with Bloomfield, Clearwater, East Prairie, Kelly, Scott City, St. Vincent and Woodland.
The Lady Bluejays open the season Dec. 2 against East Prairie.
NEW MADRID -- While New Madrid County Central's boys basketball program has been thriving, the girls program has been on a steady decline.
The squad hit a new low last year, finishing with a 4-19 record with just seven players on the roster. The school has hired Sikeston native Matt Ginther to try and turn around the once-proud program.
"I like the opportunity to go in and do what I want to do," said Ginther. "I really have to work on the interest and the attitude. The girls' attitudes are really low. I'm up to the challenge."
The road looks rough for Ginther's first year at the helm, with just one senior on the roster.
Top players on the team look to be Shanika McFarland (5-10, jr.) and Shayna Williams (5-11, jr.) in the post, and freshman point guard Tsia Matthews (5-7).
"It's definitely a rebuilding year, we're very young," said Ginther. "We're going with a freshman point guard and I'll be playing several sophomores regularly. I'm hoping to get the attitude where it needs to be and turn them around from last year. I know they had a tough year, and I'm trying to get the interest back in the school and get the talent to come out and play for me."
Other key players will be Resheila Smith (5-5, so.), Jasmeka Thatch (6-0, sr.), Betsy White (5-6, so.), Tanya Minner (5-8, jr.) and Jenni Glenn (5-10, jr.).
With the new enrollment breaks, NMCC is in Class 3, District 1 along with Caruthersville, Doniphan, Kennett, Malden, Portageville and Twin Rivers.
The Lady Eagles will open the season on Monday, hosting Meridian, Ill.
DELTA -- The Lady Bobcats return several key players from last year's 20-7 district championship team.
Senior Rebecca Below (6-0) is the most notable returner. As a junior, she averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. She shot 57 percent from the field and 66 percent from the free throw line.
Standout Rebecca Cook (5-6, sr.) is also back, after averaging 18 points and 5.5 assists per game last season. She shot 45 percent from the field and 72 percent from the foul line.
Other returners include Sarah Cook, Jenny Dannenmueller, Katrina Flores, Alexis Nussbaum, Krystal Burnett, Ashley Elliott, Rebecca Below, Tiffany Johnson, Sarah Jo Cook, Andrea Dohogne, Jessica Livingston and Kathy Terry. Delta lost no seniors to graduation.
BENTON -- The Lady Hawks return almost everything from last year's 23-5 team.
Four starters are back, including Dana Essner (5-7, sr.). Last year Essner averaged 10 points, four rebounds, four steals and four assists per game.
Sophomore guard Kelly Essner (5-7) also returns, after averaging eight points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals last year.
Junior forward Ashley Kern (5-8) is back, as is senior forward Christy Kluesner (5-9), who averaged 11 points, five rebounds and four steals.
The Lady Hawks also return several players that had significant playing time last year, like Cara Scherer (5-9, sr.), Julia Vetter (5-7, sr.), Natalie Scherer (5-7, sr.), Andrea Kluesner (5-9, sr.) and Monica Senciboy (5-7, jr.).
Sophomore Jessica Burnett (5-9) could also see time on the court.
Kelly lost Alania Burford, Shannon Deshaney, Bridgett Riley and Ashley Payne to graduation. Last year the Lady Hawks were defeated by Notre Dame in the district championship game.
With the new enrollment breaks, Kelly is in Class 3, District 2 along with Charleston, Clearwater, East Prairie, Scott City, St. Vincent and Woodland.
The Lady Hawks will open the 2002-2003 season on Monday at Delta. The team is coached by Rod McQuerter.
PORTAGEVILLE -- Portageville returns three starters from last year's team, most notably 6-foot senior forward Janil Booker. Last year Booker averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game for the Lady Bulldogs.
Senior guard Alyson Crafton (5-5) also returns. Crafton is the playmaker of the team and is Portageville's top free throw shooter. Center Ashley Brown (6-0, jr.) is back, after averaging 10 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Others that will see significant playing time include Shameka Larry (5-8, jr.), Rachael Flynn (5-8, sr.), Faith Long (5-4, so.) and Sharita Jennings (5-9, jr.).
The team lost starters Mary Hannah Cross and Sarah Cayton to graduation.
With the new enrollment breaks, Portageville is in Class 3, District 1 along with Caruthersville, New Madrid County Central, Doniphan, Kennett, Malden and Twin Rivers.
The Lady Bulldogs open the season on Monday at Scott City. The team is coached by Susan Penn.
ORAN -- The Lady Eagles went 13-9 last year, but lost four starters off that team to graduation. The most notable loss was Maria Eftink, a 6-foot-2 forward that averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks per game.
Also gone are Ashley Dirnberger, Ani Lange and Holly Dirnberger. The only returning starter is Teresa Hodges, a 5-foot-8 senior.
Lexi Todt (5-7, jr.) will do the majority of the ball handling this year. Erica Dirnberger (5-7, jr.) is a solid shooter and is expected to be Oran's top defender.
The Lady Eagles' only other upperclassman is Emily Young. Last year Oran was defeated by Delta in the Class 1, District 2 championship game.
The Lady Eagles were not affected by the new enrollment breaks, and will still compete against Delta and Scott County Central in the district.
Oran opens the season in the Chaffee Tournament Dec. 9. The team is coached by Susan Diebold.
MORLEY -- The Bravettes return four starters from last year's 11-10 squad.
Junior guard Jennifer Hoots (5-7) is back after averaging 15 points a game, as is junior center Jackie Monroe, who averaged nine points.
Sophomore point guard Janet Penrod (5-5) is set for a breakout year after a dazzling freshman campaign, where she scored 13 points a night.
Sophomore forward Brittany Godwin (5-8), who averaged seven points and six rebounds a game, also returns.
Promising newcomers include Ladonna Lovel, the team's only senior, and Kristin Valenzuela, a transfer student from Los Angeles, Calif.
The Bravettes also have some freshmen on the roster that may see some playing time. Last year Scott Central lost to Oran in the first round of district play.
The Bravettes were not affected by the new classification changes, and will remain in Class 1, District 2 along with Delta and Oran.
Scott Central will open the 2002-2003 season on Tuesday at Greenville. The team is coached by Semona Penrod.
EAST PRAIRIE -- Due to a lack of players, East Prairie didn't play a full varsity schedule last year. That will change this year as the Lady Eagles have enough to form varsity and junior varsity squads.
Top players on the team will be center Latricia Dobbs (5-10, jr.), forward Lacy Tatum (5-7, jr.), guard Leslie Brown (5-6, so.), guard Michelle Redman (5-5, so.) and forward Aisa Tipler (5-8, jr.).
Two senior foreign exchange students from Germany will also see playing time: Wibke Bartcher (6-0, sr.) and Sophie Ulmer (5-8, sr.).
With the new enrollment breaks, East Prairie is in Class 3, District 2 along with Charleston, Clearwater, Kelly, Scott City, St. Vincent and Woodland.
The Lady Eagles will open the season Monday at Oak Ridge. The team is coached by Steve Stokes.
SCOTT CITY -- The Lady Rams didn't set the world on fire from a win/loss standpoint last year, finishing with a record of 9-14. But the squad was able to play several good teams close.
A big reason for that was the play of Loren Groves (5-10, jr.), a first team all-stater.
As a sophomore, Groves put up 22.7 points, 11 rebounds and had 2.1 steals per game. She shot 70 percent from the foul line and 54 percent from the field.
Other players returning include Jessica Estes, Amber Sample, Alisha Oberman, Rachel Palisch, Jenny Pinkston, Kristen Schaeffer, Audrey Heisserer and Amanda Raines.