Tough Week Awaits Rogers High Teams
November 29, 2009
ROGERS Rogers High has roared to a 2-0 start after a pair of lopsided victories against Arkansas Class 4A schools, but coach Preston Early will get a better feel for his team when the Lady Mounties compete in the Ozark (Mo.) Girls Basketball Tournament this week.
The Mounties are also 2-0 after last week’s overtime victory against Subiaco Academy, and coach Marty Barnes will look to build on that victory at the 45th annual Republic (Mo.) Invitational Tournament this week.
The Lady Mounties are the No. 3 seed in the six-team Ozark Tourney and will open tourney play Monday against Lebanon, Mo. They will play host Ozark on Thursday before moving to the championship round Saturday.
Nixa is the top seed in Ozark, while Ozark is the No. 2 seed. Nixa has two of the better players in Southwest Missouri in guards Bethanie Funderburk (5-foot-6) and Emily Walker (5-7).
Funderburk has been the Lady Eagles’ leading scorer the past two years and enters her senior year with more than 1,500 career points. She averaged six rebounds a game last season. Walker averaged seven points a game a year ago to go with a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Ozark defeated the Lady Mounties in double overtime in this tournament last year, and the Lady Tigers are led by returning 5-8 post player Hannah Gomez.
The Ozark tourney is the first of three competitive tournaments the Lady Mounties will play in before beginning 7A-West Conference play Jan. 8 at Bentonville. Rogers will go back to defend its Fort Smith Tournament of Champions title before traveling to Greeneville, Tenn. to play a high-profile field in the GreenBank Ladies Classic.
The Tournament of Champions field includes three teams ranked by USA Today, while the tournament in Tennessee will feature teams with several Division I prospects.
“This is a really talented field (in Ozark) and we need this,” Early said. “We will have to compete at a high level. This will let us know where we are at. I have reminded them (Rogers) that Ozark is where we picked up our first loss last year. Obviously, everything gets tougher from here on out. I want to see where we stack up against the competition we are going to face the next month of the season.”
Early received a bit of good news this week as guard Sarah Ross returned to practice on Tuesday. Ross is coming off a broken foot. Hayley Clark, one of the Mounties’ better 3-point shooters, returned to practice after overcoming a bout of H1N1, then another infection. She missed Rogers’ first two games.
“(Ross) is still a little bit rusty,” Early said. “She will get her quickness back. She is a three-year starter and a kid that really has had a good offseason. It will be good to have her back in the mix. We really haven’t had our whole team together in eight weeks.”
The Mounties are in the middle of an eight-day layoff after using a 3-pointer by Casey Caton at the buzzer to defeat Subiaco in overtime.
Caton is a three-year starter for the Mounties, and Barnes said the senior improved his game in the offseason despite playing football. Caton also had 14 rebounds against Subiaco.
“We need everybody to be a complete player, and we need him (Caton) to shoot the basketball,” Barnes said. “(Caton) has improved his shot and he was the only one to hit a three (against Subiaco).”
Rogers will face an Aurora, Mo., team Wednesday that lost four starters from a squad that advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals last season. Waylon Doty (6-5) is the lone Aurora returnee.
“We have heard that their JV team was 14-2 last year, so they will surround him (Doty) with a good group,” said Mounties coach Marty Barnes. “We will see how we stack up against a team with a lot of tradition.”
The Mounties return home Dec. 10 when they play host to the Arvest Hoopfest Tournament. Rogers then travels to a tournament in Rolla, Mo. after Christmas.