Both Booneville basketball teams started getting ready for the 2018-19 season by participating in camps last week. The Bearcats hosted their own camp last Tuesday and Thursday, while the LadyCats made their way to Fayetteville to participate in the University of Arkansas camp.
The Cats won all nine games they played during the camp, most of them by lopsided margins. These included a convincing triumph over Pottsville and two decisions over Poteau. The tone was set in the very first game, against Dover, when the first score came on a dunk by Blakley Cobb.
Head coach Ronnie Denton feels this could be a very special year for the Bearcats. “We could have a lot of fun this season,” he said.
Booneville returns many players who started and saw much playing time last season, highlighted by the 6-4 Cobb, an All-State selection, and Logan Bradley, a 6-9 senior who was named honorable mention All-State. Season assist record holder Camryn Lawson also returns, along with talented guard Nate Riley; both were All-District selections.
Forward Mason Weaver (6-5) is also back; his rebounding, shot-blocking and putbacks made him a valuable asset in the Bearcats’ run to the state tournament. His layup forced overtime against Shiloh Christian in the first round of regionals, a game the Cats eventually won.
Guards Tyler Hall and Brandon Bradley, who were valuable in spot duty last season, return as well. Denton is also looking to Anthony McKesson to put in some work inside.
The Cats have already picked up another player; with the return of Tim and Amy Goers to Booneville, their son Grant, a 6-4 incoming senior, has joined the team. A natural guard, Goers was very adept at stealing the ball last season at Vilonia.
“We have many guys who can start, and they know that,” said Denton. He said they will look at matchups with teams to determine the lineup for a particular game.
Booneville is in an entirely new conference for 2018-19. A Jessieville team that carries with it a lot of tradition will be a big test for the Cats during league play, and Perryville racked up a 27-5 record last season. And when it comes to county rival Paris, nothing is a given. Atkins, Fountain Lake, Lamar and Two Rivers complete the league.
In contrast to the height offered by the boys’ team, the LadyCats are a small team. But they are also quick, and coach Jay Loyd hopes to use that attribute to his team’s advantage.
“We’ll be a very guard-oriented team,” said Loyd. “We’re going to have to spread the floor and take care of the basketball.”
Loyd will be leaning on senior Kasidey Thompson and juniors Baylee Moses, Shelby Posey and Hannah Gregory to lead the team. Of this group, Moses is the leading returning scorer with Posey not far behind. Gregory is the returning leader in three-pointers, while Thompson led the squad in charges taken.
He added that they probably would have a 5-6 girl in the middle, though he hopes to get some contribution from 5-11 junior Brittnie Maness. Incoming sophomore Sarah Grissom might also help; she was rapidly improving during her freshman season before an injury sidelined her.
Senior Haley Gray and sophomores Allison Michael, Haley Rhodes and Lindsay Wallace complete the team at this time. Gray is in her first year of basketball but appears to be a quick learner, while the other three have junior high experience under their belts.
With the LadyCats being so dependent on their guards, they will have to navigate a conference that includes a lot of talent at that position. Lamar’s Lakyn Sanders and Paris’s Lexy Lee and Jadyn Hart are among the standouts at that position, with Two Rivers having an excellent, well-rounded team and Perryville and Jessieville usually among the contenders as well.