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Class 3: Kelly looking to return to playoffs

Sunday, November 23, 2008

BENTON -- The Kelly Lady Hawks are once again set for a solid season of high school hoops. This year's squad is preparing for a shot at another district title game, but hope that they can rebound after a disappointing loss last season to Portageville.

Head coach Rod McQuerter feels like he has compiled a team that can do special things in the upcoming season.

"Right now, our outlook for the season is very simple," said McQuerter. "You've heard me say this before, it's to have a positive attitude, to play hard and to play as a team. That's what we talk about every day in practice. It starts with your attitude and when that is good, then obviously you will play hard and play as a team. That's what we build on."

McQuerter said that he's been preaching that concept to his teams for 10 years and he said that he thinks that it works well at Kelly High School.

"Those three things are the key ingredients to our philosophy and we're going to keep on doing it."

McQuerter also said that he has a young squad and that right now fundamental basketball is the name of the game.

"We're a very young basketball team right now," he said. "We want to make sure that every girl on this team is enjoying themselves and that they're having fun and that they want to be at practice. Right now I've been blessed with a good group of girls that want to be here."

"As far as our outlook on the season, we don't focus on wins and losses, we focus on attitude," he went on to say. "And, we don't really focus on key players or anything like that, we focus on team. When our girls play the game they play as a team. When they leave the game, they leave as a team."

McQuerter said that he doesn't have a list of starters drawn up this early in the season, but he commented on four returning players that bring a lot to the table.

"We have four outstanding leaders this year in Debra Hall, Katee Moore, Tara Johnson and Lana Whitworth," he said. "Our senior leadership this year is outstanding. They're great girls, they're leading excellent practices right now, they're leading in the locker room and they're also leading our girls in the classroom and that's what's important. They're helping the girls to be better students and better people, not just basketball players. Simply attitude and being something when you leave Kelly High School. That's what's important to us."

Charleston to utilize their athleticism

CHARLESTON -- A new game plan is in the works for the Charleston Lady Bluejays this season, as they look to utilize their athleticism by running the floor a little more this upcoming season.

Head coach Michael Minner said that his team has being working on their conditioning during the off-season to get ready for their transition game.

"We're running like crazy," Minner said. "We have been working in the off-season on conditioning. They have been running long distance to get ready."

As part of their new running style offense, Minner said that they will shy away from a traditional set offense.

"We're kind of getting away from running offenses," Minner said. "We are trying to run more."

The only player that the Lady Bluejays have lost from last season is Raven Walker due to graduation. Minner said that a projected starting lineup is still in the works, but has the depth to go any direction he chooses.

"This is probably one of the hardest working groups I've ever had," Minner said. "We have enough to have a full varsity and junior varsity schedule. We got some numbers this year."

Minner also said that his squad will have a good chance of improving on their 3-16 record from last year, mainly by gaining experience one game at a time.

"We're looking for a lot of positives," he said. "Overall we just want to improve. We feel like we're going to be a better team. We're going to start small and just want to get better from there.

"I think they are ready to win," he added. "I think they are finally buying into a system."

The Lady Bluejays will begin their season at home on Dec. 1 against the East Prairie Lady Eagles.

East Prairie shooting for .500 season

EAST PRAIRIE -- Coming into the 2008-09 basketball season, the East Prairie Lady Eagles have one goal on their mind, accomplish a .500 season. Head coach Steven Douglas said that it's been since 1992 that the Lady Eagles have provided a winning season and he believes that this season's squad has plenty of potential to do just that and more.

"I think we ought to be very competitive throughout the year and I think we ought to have a winning season for the first time in 16 years," said Douglas. "I think our advantage ought to be quickness and we ought to be able to play good defense and get up and down the floor pretty good this year."

The Lady Eagles return five seniors this season and have a solid number of juniors and seniors on the bench. Grace Swann, Lydia Cartwright, Whitley Rundles and Blaire Peters are a few of the returning starters while Mandy Knupp and Megan Hedges each saw time at the varsity level after getting the call up from the JV squad.

"When (Mandy) Knupp and (Megan) Hedges came up from the JV, it really sparked our defense," said Douglas. "I feel like I'm basing my expectation on how well our defense was with that pair in there. The starting lineup is still up for grabs but I think it's pretty close in terms of those that started last year."

Douglas said that his bench players can shoot the ball well and that the defense should be able to put pressure on opposing offenses.

"We've got pretty good point guard play and obviously that's important," added Douglas. "We've also got good post player play, so, I think there may be a gap in our outside shots, that may be one of our areas of weakness, but, we ought to be able to get up and down the floor and push the ball. That's my expectation anyway."

Douglas said that he hopes to build off of the six win season from last year and break the .500 mark.

"We've got a history of losing and that's hard to get over, but that's where we're at."

The Lady Eagles lost five games last season by less than four points either in overtime or at the buzzer.

NMCC returns wealth of experience

NEW MADRID -- The New Madrid County Central Lady Eagles girls basketball team will look to improve this year from their 10-15 record last season.

The Lady Eagles return a total of seven players with varsity experience from last years squad. NMCC will return three starters, including two all-conference juniors in guard Shameika Williams and foward/center Jasmine Flennoy. Williams, who also earned all-district honors, averaged 18 points and five steals per game last season, while Flennoy contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Lady Eagles head coach David Crockett said that he will look to these girls as his "go to players." However, Crockett said that he feels his seniors will provide leadership.

"I'm looking for my seniors to provide leadership this year," he said. "In particular J'Kara Collins and Jessica Ruedrich."

Crockett said that his team will have some new contributers as well.

"I have a couple of fresh faces to mix in with the returning experienced players," he said.

Crockett feels the strength of his team will be their depth and ability to put a lot of players in the mix.

"I think our primary strength will be our depth," he said. "We will be able to throw a lot of bodies at teams. We want to wear teams down throughout the game with a lot of different players."

Crockett feels offensive consistency could be a problem for NMCC.

"Probably our biggest weakness will be consistency on offense," he said. "We are working hard everyday in practice to become better overall shooters."

Crockett says that his players have a great attitude and are working hard to make defense the cornerstone of their team success.

"Our overall attitude has been great so far in practice," he said. "We are constantly working on defense because when our offense isn't there our defense always will be. We are a defensive-minded team and we are stressing the word 'team' this season. We know it will take a team effort to have success this season."

The Lady Eagles will tip off their season at the Bulldog Classic tournament in Steele. The tournament begins Dec.1.

Stories by Matthew Bain, Josh Mills and Chris Pobst of the Standard Democrat sports department.