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Thayer basketball 2011-2012

Thursday, December 22, 2011

THAYER LADY BOBCATS [Order this photo]
THAYER BOBCATS [Order this photo]
It should have been no surprise that the Thayer Lady Bobcats underwent a few growing pains over the course of last season.

After all, the Lady Cats were minus a trio of key senior cogs, along with the head coach, that had helped Thayer reach the Show-Me Showdown at Mizzou Arena the previous year.

But while they were young and for the most part untested heading into last season, several Lady Bobcats got extensive playing time a year ago that should benefit the team this season.

As she enters her second season as head coach of the Lady Bobcats, Kristi Chester welcomes back four starters from last year -- seniors Laken Martin, Meshila Mullins and Lauren Hargus, along with junior Emily Eckman. Hargus is currently out with an injury early in the season.

"We really don't have a set group of five people for starters," Chester said. "It depends on the team we are playing and who has worked hard in practice. Players who have started randomly in our first few games are Eckman, Martin, Elly Burrell, Jordan Alford, Molly Honeycutt, Laken Hollis, Mullins and Kelsey Steed."

By the looks of things, Thayer does have some players returning that can put the ball into the basket.

"Laken Martin averaged 16 points last year for us and Emily Eckman was 40 percent from the 3-point line and averaged nine points last year," said the coach. "And Meshila Mullins averaged eight points a game, while Elly Burrell came in and got some quality varsity time last year and is doing well this year. We have a group of eight freshmen who are working hard and will give us some varsity time this year, also."

According to Chester, the Ava Lady Bears appear to be one of the front-runners for the South Central Association's top honors this year.

"I think Ava will be at the top of the SCA and the rest of the teams after that should be pretty evenly matched," she said.

And what will it take for the Lady Bobcats to make their way to the top of the SCA standings this winter?

"The keys to a successful season would be hard work, playing with intensity and playing together," said Chester. "We have a good group of girls and with a little more experience and work, they should be very competitive."

The Bobcats continued their impressive run of the past couple of years with yet another district title and trip to the state playoffs.

Thayer's season came to an end with a loss to the Bernie Mules in the sectional round -- a team that played its way to the Show-Me Showdown in Columbia.

As they look to build on last year's success, the Cats bring back three senior starters from last year -- Ricky Smith, Dylan Dennis and Austin Henry.

Joining those three seniors in the starting lineup early this season for head coach Matt Pitts' club has been a pair of sophomores, Levi Hargrove and Jacob Foley.

"We have a lot experience. Along with a lot of talented underclassmen, which is a good mix," Pitts said. "They are all good kids on and off the floor, who all want to win."

Senior classmates Jeremy Cabrales, Derek Krieg and Brandon Childers, along with junior Jacob Alford, will also be important pieces of the puzzle for the Bobcats as they fight their way through the South Central Association.

"The SCA will be tough as always, with three or four teams having a chance to win it and the rest just waiting to knock off someone at the top," said Pitts. "It will be an interesting race from start to finish."

Thayer got off to a fast start this year by winning the Fin to Fur Holiday Tournament in Koshkonong during the season's first week.

"With all of the teams in the area being competitive, we must bring our "A" game every night and learn to value every possession on offense and defense," Pitts said. "With all of the kids we have pushing for playing time, how we accept our roles will play a big part in what we can accomplish."

According to Pitts, the talent and experience needed to compete is in place for his squad. Now all they have to do is just utilize that talent and experience.

"This group of seniors have been in a lot of battles and have been through ups and downs. If they continue to work and play every game like it's their last, it could become really special," he said.

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