By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
The host and second-seeded Marshfield have the new head coaches in this week’s 16th Joplin Freeman/Lady Eagle Classic at Missouri Southern State University.
Joplin’s Dustin Larsen and Marshfield’s Shelly Jones will meet tonight for the first time in Game 3 of the opening session.
That may read a bit unusual considering they’ve been in southwest Missouri for several years. But it isn’t really since Larsen spent the past 10 seasons at Springfield Catholic and Jones had been serving as a college assistant at Southwest Baptist (2) and Drury (5) after eight as head coach at Springfield Parkview High School.
Larsen didn’t recall Catholic and Parkview meeting in the Greenwood Pink and White Tournament.
“We can exchange war stories about having to restart,” Jones said with a laugh on Wednesday night.
Sadly, they can commiserate about sickness/injuries.
Marshfield’s sharp-shooting Lauren Aldridge, a 5-foot-7 junior all-stater, is sidelined with an injury and hopefully, Jones said, will return in the Pink and White.
Larsen on Wednesday had two players on the questionable list for the tourney opener — 5-9 junior Jacqueline Lieurance (ankle) and 5-6 junior Marissa Queen (sickness).
“It (playing Marshfield) will be a challenge,” Larsen said. “Definitely, it’s an opportunity to play a team rich in tradition. Aldridge is a nice player. They will have a strong, experienced team without Aldridge.
“We’re making progress,” Larsen said of the Eagles. “We’re going in the right direction.”
Jones said she believes the Blue Jays have two returning starters, in addition to Aldridge, in 5-7 classmates Kylee Murgel and Makenna Smith.
Marshfield and Joplin have respective records of 1-2 and 1-1.
No. 1 seed, defending champion Nixa and fourth-seeded Webb City are 3-0 and Neosho 1-0. Third-seeded Springdale (Ark.) Har-Ber is 3-2.
Harrison (Ark.) is 2-3 and Blue Valley West of Overland Park, Kan., is opening its season.
Nixa vs. Blue Valley West
Nixa won its opener 63-36 at Harrison in the only previous meeting among the tourney teams.
Nixa also has trimmed Waynesville 55-28 and Mount Vernon 51-19.
“We have kids who can shoot the ball (perhaps led by 5-7 senior Jeana Raper),” Eagle coach Jim Middleton said. “We’re working on the defense.
“We’ll be challenged in the tournament,” Middleton, whose team was 21-7 in 2011-12, said. “We need to be.”
Blue Valley West has two returning starters in juniors Hayley Ballard and Hope Witaszak.
The Jaguars’ only senior is Blue Valley North transfer Jordan Wright.
Webb City vs. Harrison
Goblin coach Doug Young said they have three players with starting experience in sophomore Taylor Tate, junior Cara Barrett and junior Emily Poynor.
Barrett and Tate are scoring in double figures for the 5A ballclub. Poynor is its leading rebounder.
Webb City had superb balance — it expects to start five juniors — in winning the Carl Junction Classic last week.
The Cardinals lost 40-36 to Nixa in the championship game of the Freeman/Lady Eagle Classic in 2011.
Har-Ber vs. Neosho
Har-Ber, in its eighth year, is coming off its best campaign (22-10). The Wildcats lost to eventual champion Cabot on its floor in a 7A quarterfinal.
The Wildcats had two players make last week’s Willard Tri-State Classic elite — senior Caylee Wright (coach Sandy Wright’s daughter) and 5-10 sophomore Bailey Schalk.
Schalk and Wright are averaging in double figures. Schalk and 5-11 senior Tayleah Neal are the leading rebounders.
Neosho received 16 points from 5-10 sophomore Chelsey Henry in its opening 51-50 win against visiting Joplin.
Coach Lance Robbins also was pleased with 10 points apiece off the bench from 6-2 sophomore Morgan Rogers, who started some games last season, and 5-8 freshman Brooke Stauffer.
Freeman/Lady Eagle notes: Wheaton High School graduate Gary Murphy, whom Jones replaced at Marshfield, is athletics director and director of discipline as well as coach at all-girls, private Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock. The Class 7A Belles have opened 3-4. ... Nixa’s Angie Allen, a 5-9 junior, is the daughter of Missouri State head football coach Terry Allen.