Cassville girls making strides

Lady Wildcats better than last year in all major stat categories


The Cassville girls basketball team was a shade away from a .500 record this season, but how much the team has improved year-to-year is in the scorebook.

Cassville Girls Basketball Coach Clayton Bagby said the Lady Wildcats (12-15, 3-3) endured a transition year and made themselves better during it.

“Overall, I am proud of what we were able to do this year,” he said. “I don’t want to call it a rebuilding year, but it was definitely a transition year. We lost a number of key contributors from the last couple of seasons and returned very little offense from the year before.

“Even with that, we were able to be a better offensive and defensive team overall this year with significant contributions from underclassmen, and improve from 1-5 to 3-3 in conference play.”

Bagby said as the squad looks ahead, that experience gained by the underclassmen will help push the program forward even more.

“You always would always like to win more, but improving our standing in conference, while being a much younger team, was a goal we reached,” he said. “As for our overall record, we were a win away in the regular season from getting that .500 record again, which would have been a nice accomplishment. Even with a pretty new cast of contributors, we were an improved team over the previous year in almost every major statistical category (PPG, PPG allowed, shooting percentage, rebounding, turnovers, steals, FT percentage, and assists). So, when you look at that, this should be a positive sign going forward.”

The largest contributor to that improvement, Bagby said, was this year’s group learning how to play at the speed of the game.

“I think the biggest thing is just gaining the varsity experience needed in-game, and especially late game, at game speed,” he said. “That can be hard to replicate in practice, and we played some close games early that didn’t go our way for one reason or another. But, as the season went on, we were able to close a few of those out that could have gone the other way.”

Cassville’s season was a back-and-forth campaign, marked by a third-place finish at the Southwest Holiday Tournament and no winless streaks greater than four. Cassville also capped the season with a pair of wins over Hollister and Neosho.

“For the girls, being able to pick up conference wins against Lamar and Seneca at home were definitely a highlight,” Bagby said. “Against Lamar, we were down double digits early and had to fight back to get that win.”

Heading into the offseason, Bagby said the season showed the team a few areas that need improvement.

“Turnovers and handling pressure is and will continue to be a focus going forward,” he said. “Turnovers were improved over the previous year, but it needs to continue to improve next year because our shots taken per game needs to increase. Offensively, we have to continue to work to get better ball and player movement and do a better job attacking defenses and putting pressure on them and individually being ready and willing to shoot the ball and find ways to score.”

Leaving the squad will be a pair of seniors, Rozenn Planchard and Madison Halterman.

“Rozenn was our exchange student and new to the game but worked extremely hard to improve along the way and provide our varsity with pressure defensively in practice,” Bagby said. “She stayed after practices for many days working to improve and was a great positive presence around the team.

“Madison was an absolute workhorse for our team and is the hardest worker I have had, putting in thousands of shots on her own time working to improve her game. And, the results for her showed on the floor. She hit many big shots for us this year and is a great model for younger players to follow showing what work on your own time will do for you and almost always was the first in the gym and last to leave. That leadership by example will be hard to replace.”

As the seniors make way, the Lady Wildcats will have a different look next season.

“Unlike this year, we will be returning experience next year,” Bagby said. “We will letter nine girls this year and have the possibility of eight of those returning with six having started games this year. We will have to continue to work hard, but the hope would be that with that experience we will be able to get off to a better start next year and not dig a hole record-wise early like we did this year, and continue to get more comfortable playing at the varsity level. Defensively we did OK this year (41 PPG allowed), but that will be more of a focus going forward to find more of a defensive team identity.”

The Lady Wildcats will be tested next season with a shift in the Big 8 Conference back to nine teams, returning Mt. Vernon and Aurora to Cassville’s schedule.

“The conference is only getting better next year with the addition of Aurora and Mt. Vernon,” Bagby said. “Both teams, along with many in the Big 8 West from this year, are going to be returning full rosters of players. Our hope going forward is this year was the floor recordwise that we can build on going forward for the foreseeable future.”