The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

December 24, 2013

Pierce City girls prepare to defend title at Neosho

Pierce City’s girls naturally are hoping to challenge for a repeat basketball championship in the Branco Neosho Holiday Classic.

Rob Guerin’s Eagles, Gold Division champions in 2012, will be aiming for Black Division honors this season. They debut at 10 a.m. on Thursday against McDonald County in the Neosho Middle School gym.

The 1 p.m. Black Division game is Neosho vs. Forrest City (Ark.). Carthage and Springdale (Ark.) have first-round byes.

The Gold Division schedule on Thursday is East Newton vs. Neosho B at 11:30 a.m. and Seneca vs. Van Buren (Ark.) at 2:30 p.m. Webb City, the 2012 Black Division champion, and Bentonville (Ark.) have byes.

Webb City finished 4-0 at Neosho in 2012. The Cardinals capped off their effort by clipping Bentonville 62-56.

Pierce City has opened 4-3 with the losses (Ash Grove, East Newton and Stockton) in the Ash Grove Tournament.

A rough start perhaps isn’t a surprise considering the Eagles lost about 80 percent of their scoring, Guerin said Tuesday night.

“The girls are getting comfortable,” Guerin said. “They are becoming more aggressive in trying to score. As an example, we had three starters recently set career scoring highs. We’re improving.

“We realize we’re facing a challenge (to repeat),” Guerin said. “We’re playing a solid team in McDonald County in our tournament opener. It sounds like the transfer, Nicole Ickes (from Washburn Southwest), has helped them out. They certainly have a good post player in (Preslea) Reece.”

Guerin has two starters — 6-foot-1 senior Christine Younker and 5-9 junior Bailee Hayward — returning from a team that lost 57-55 to eventual Class 2 state champion Crane in the sectional round of the playoffs.

Mattie Brottlund (5-9 senior), Shania Hogan (5-10 junior) and Amber Wagner (6-0 junior) complete the usual starters, Guerin said, with 5-8 freshman Christine Stellwagen leading the bench.

Guerin estimated that Younker is averaging between 14-15 points. Younker and Wagner each are averaging some six rebounds.

Hayward and Younker were all-Spring River Valley Conference performers last season for the Eagles (22-8, 9-0).

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