Hopes high for Purdy girls
Lady Eagles return loaded lineup, have lofty goals
Last season ended much sooner than the Purdy girls basketball team hoped it would.
The team won 21 games, the Clever and Galena Tournaments, and an Ozark 7 Conference title.
However, the Lady Eagles were upended for the third consecutive season in district play by Pierce City.
Purdy Head Coach Eli Ernst is 51-31 (62 percent) in his three seasons at the helm.
Twice, including last season, Ernst had led the Lady Eagles to the district title game, only to be turned away by the Green and White Lady Eagles.
With four returning starters, Purdy is the favorite, at least on paper, to claim the elusive district title.
"We are coming off a great season a year ago, and this year, we plan to ask our athletes to reach higher," Ernst said. "I
like this year's group. They are athletic kids that play multiple sports and have been tested in big game situations.
"We set some goals every year and know if everyone buys in to 'Reaching Higher,' our goals will be obtainable. We feel confident in the skill sets God has blessed us with and are excited to start working together this season."
The Lady Eagles return four starters, six lettermen and 75 percent of their scoring from a season ago.
The only starter lost was Jayse Henderson, due to graduation.
"Jayse has been in the Purdy program as long as she has been old enough to play," Ernst said. "I will miss her eagerness to always get things done. She has been a true blessing to our team, as well as our community, and has set the bar high for others to accomplish what she has as an Eagle, both on and off the court."
Returning for Purdy this season are Desirie Ennes, senior; Sami House and Rion Boyd, juniors; and Layne Skiles, Zoe Brown and Cailyn Spears, sophomores.
Ennes, a 5-8, four-year starter, averaged 11.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game last season.
"Des is our senior leader," Ernst said. "Our younger players rally around her. She has been in the trenches in some really big games, and we are going to need to draw upon that experience to reach higher this season."
Ennes is embracing the role of team leader.
"I am looking forward to this year and ready to see what God has in store for our team," Ennes said. "We only graduated one player and the team as a whole is ready to fill in her shoes. All I can truly say is I'm ready to give this year my all and go out with a bang."
House, a 5-7 guard, scored 9.1 points and dished out almost 5 rebounds per contest as a sophomore.
"Sami has taken her game up from last year through her hard work in the off season," Ernst said. "She has done a lot to improve her game and has the ability to play anywhere on the floor."
Boyd, a 5-7 guard, recorded 6.1 points and almost 2 steals per game in 28 contests last season.
"Rion is an arrow-pointing-up kind of kid," Ernst said. "She has a good shot from outside and will continue to evolve her game to take it to the next level."
Skiles gave the Lady Eagles a post presence with her 5-11 frame. She averaged 12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game as a freshman.
"Layne had a big first year, starting every game," Ernst said. "She collected over 350 points and 200 rebounds as a freshman. She is an awesome kid that God has blessed with great skill sets. We are excited to see her enhance her level of play as a sophomore."
Brown, a 5-4 guard, saw action in all 28 games.
"Zoe is a true team player that is more than willing to accept whatever role helps the team," Ernst said. "She will be asked this season to increase her production on the floor, and there is no doubt she will embrace the opportunity."
Spears, a 5-7 forward, came on late in the season and played in 18 games for Purdy.
"She is a hard working up-and-comer," Ernst said. "She has pushed herself to command minutes as the first post player from the bench. This is testimony that hard work will pay off."
New to the team this season is a quartet of sophomores in Hallie Henderson, Mikey Schad, Rylee Moller and Betty Berry.
Ernst said all four have worked hard in the offseason, and he expects them to contribute when called upon this season.
"We take great pride in presenting ourselves at the best of our abilities on a nightly basis," Ernst said. "We also place great value in playing our schedule and recognize it as a path that promotes improvement. Additionally, we respect and know that any given night we must reinforce what it is to play like a Purdy [Lady] Eagle."
Purdy opens the season on the road at Forsyth on Monday. After the Diamond Tournament, contests at Walnut Grove and Miller, the Lady Eagles host Wheaton for their home opener on Dec. 17.