If there was ever a time for the Bunceton Lady Dragons basketball team to win both a conference and district title, this would be the year to do it.
With five seniors making up a roster of 12 players this season, the Lady Dragons are also coming off a winning season in 2016-17 after finishing 14-10 overall.
But that’s not all. In addition to having five seniors, the Lady Dragons also have four returning starters and nine letterwinners back for the 2017-18 season.
“I want to be competitive in every game we play,” said Bunceton coach Brian Emde. “Our goals are to win the conference and play for a district championship. We have five seniors on the team with good leadership skills and we are working hard in quest to reach our goals. I feel the girls believe they can have a successful year and are anxious to get the season started.”
So far so good. In the season opener last Friday at Chilhowee, the Lady Dragons won 57-25.
As for the conference this season, Emde said the team’s philosophy will be to respect everyone but fear none. With teams like Calvary Lutheran, Jamestown, Prairie Home and Higbee also vying for the title, Emde said it will be about playing well and improving each game.
“Momentum can carry you a long way,” Emde said. “Just ask Prairie Home last year. All schools in the conference play us tough and we will have to be at our best to win.”
The Lady Dragons also want to outwork their opponents this season. While depth shouldn’t be a problem this season with 12 out, Emde said the girls work hard and play with desire in practice.
“We are coming together as a team and will play you 32 minutes every night,” Emde said. “We just need to be cognizant of our turnovers and shoot in a consistent manner. We will also be undersized against a majority of opponents.”
The five seniors seeing significant playing time this season for Bunceton are Lauren Wieland, Emily Clevenger, Kylie Heilman, Jenna Kahle and Skyler Shuffield.
Wieland, who is listed at 5’-7”, finished the season last year averaging 12.1 ppg along with 5.9 rpg and 2.3 spg. Emde said Wieland is very talented and athletic. “Lauren works hard offensively and defensively,” Emde said.
Clevenger also returns with playing experience from last year while averaging 6.6 ppg along with 3.3 rpg and 2.6 apg. Emde said Clevenger is a good outside shooter that will be asked to play inside some. “Emily can play all positions,” Emde said.
Kahle and Shuffield also contributed on the floor last year. While Kahle averaged 2.3 ppg and 1.4 rpg, Shuffield finished the season with 2.4 ppg along with 3.5 rpg and 1.5 apg.
Emde said Kahle is one of the team’s top defenders while Shuffield will be looked upon to improve on her shooting to give us a more balanced attack.
As for Heilman, Emde said she will come in to spell people a few minutes at a time. Emde said Heilman missed all of last season with an ACL injury.
Other players of interest this season for Bunceton are junior Taylor Burnett and sophomores Chloe Moser and Cara Bishop.
Burnett also returns from last year after averaging 10.9 ppg along with 1.8 rpg, 1.6 apg and 1.2 spg. Emde said Burnett will play point guard. “Taylor will distribute the ball to the hot hand,” Emde said. “She is also a good ballhandler.”
As for Moser, she will play the post position this season and returns after averaging 4.4 ppg and 4.8 rpg as a freshman. “We are looking for Chloe to be more of a threat on offense for a more balanced attack,” Emde said.
Bishop will also give the Lady Dragons some much needed depth this season. While averaging 4.4 ppg and 4.8 rpg last year, Emde said Bishop comes into the game and makes an immediate impact. “She will get a steal, a rebound or make a basket to give us a spark,” Emde said. “She always seems to be around the ball.”
First year players that will gain valuable experience throughout the year and will be a benefit to the team include sophomore Sidney Cunningham and freshmen Madelynn Myers, Taylyn Heilman and Maddie Brandes.