(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
DELTA - Kaci Menz and Shea Smith from Delta High School signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.
Menz plans to play both softball and basketball, while Smith will concentrate solely on basketball.
The duo were apart of some highly successful teams while at Delta, enrollment 91. In their four years with the Lady Bobcats basketball team, Delta went 84-15 with four district titles and a third place finish in Class 1 for the 2005-06 season. With Menz and Smith, Delta won 20 games or more three of their four years on the hardwood.
Delta lost to the eventual state champs of 2005, Chadwick, in a Class 1 sectional matchup and the Lady Bobcats finished with a 21-6 record. Delta's third place was in a season in which they were 27-1 in the regular season and were led by Menz and Smith.
A 5-6 point guard, Menz averaged 14 points, three rebounds and three assists per game for the third place Lady Bobcats and was a second team selection for all-state.
What looked to be a solid senior year for Smith and Delta, took a hit during their softball district final against Naylor. Delta won the game 2-1, but might have lost the war. During the contest, Smith severely damaged her knee sliding into a base. Smith missed their next softball game in the playoffs and was hobbled most of the basketball season.
"At first," said Smith, "I was devastated. I thought all my dreams of playing basketball at the next level went down the drain. But, I told myself I had to get back to work and get the knee healthy. I ready to get to work and show people I am back."
Without the services of their leading scorer, Delta still had an outstanding year. Led by Menz and younger sister Jodi, the Lady Bobcats went 26-0 in the regular season and captured their fourth straight district title. The perfect season was ended in the sectional round by Scott County Central.
Menz carried the load offensively and defensively for Delta. For the year, Menz averaged 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals per game. Menz shot 75 percent at the charity stripe and 45 percent from the floor. Menz finished with over 1,200 career points and was a first team selection for the Class 1 All-State team.
"Kaci did a good job of pushing the ball up the floor this year," said Delta head basketball coach Randy White. "She is a nice penetrator and can put the ball in the hole. While she is good offensively, Kaci made us go on defense. She puts good pressure on the ball and causes a lot of problems for opposing guards."
Three Rivers had a nice season on the basketball court and are having success this spring on the softball diamond. Under head coach Jack Childress, the Lady Raiders basketball team went 21-11 and lost in the semifinals of their regional tournament to Mineral Area, 83-71.
The softball team is winding down their season and currently have a 20-12 record under head coach Christa Albright.
Menz believes that softball comes more natural to her than basketball.
"I am more comfortable with softball," said Menz who played catcher for the Lady Bobcats. "It is going to be a change no matter the sport I play. In softball, I will have to improve my hitting due to the better pitching in college. In basketball, my ball-handling and shooting have got to improve. It is going to be a challenge for me, but I have faith in myself that I can succeed at the next level."
Menz and Smith will spend a great deal of their time playing basketball at the Three Rivers open gyms in the upcoming months before school starts up again. Menz will also be playing in a summer softball league that will take up a majority of her time.
"I am very grateful for the chance to play in college," said Menz. "I didn't think I would ever have this opportunity. I have worked hard for this ever since my freshman year. I have always wanted to play sports in college and I am thankful I will get that chance."
Before the knee injury, Smith had numerous interest from Division I schools. Although disappointed with where her injury left her, Smith is happy to be playing with her teammate and friend at Three Rivers.
"Kaci has been my best friend since kindergarten," said Smith. "In grade school, we talked about going to college together. We kind of forgot about it until this year. It is going to be great to have Kaci around. Kind of like a dream come true."