The Boonville Lady Pirates basketball team will remember the 2018-19 season for several reasons.
While the Lady Pirates closed out the season with another winning record at 21-4 overall, they also finished their first season in the Tri-County Conference at 6-1 only behind School of the Osage at 7-0.
But if there is one thing the Lady Pirates will never forget is the loss to Marshall in the semifinal round of the Class 4 District 9 Tournament as the No. 1 seed.
While beating the Lady Owls just two weeks earlier by 18 71-53, Boonville fell in the district semifinals by nine 62-53 for a 27 point swing.
Boonville Lady Pirates basketball coach Jaryt Hunziker said first of all the season went by fast and a lot of that is credit to having a group of players that have great chemistry and were motivated to represent Boonville the best they could.
“This allows everyone to enjoy practices and games even more,” Hunziker said. “A season is always a success when you see improvement throughout the season and I felt that with this young group we saw that. That made it even tougher to have our season end with the final two losses after playing some good basketball for the previous two months.  With back to back tournaments the first few weeks of the season we were still playing like a younger group continuing to identify our roles and playing on a bigger stage then in the past. So earning a third place finish among more veteran TCC teams was a great start even after losing to state ranked Blair Oaks in the semifinals by four but turning around and beating No. 1 seed and state ranked California in the third place game.
“The next week I felt by the end of the week we looked sluggish and slow, especially in the championship game versus a good Salisbury team and that resulted with us earning a second place finish. As a team we rebounded by winning the next 16 games, including wins over state ranked teams in Blair Oaks, California twice, Skyline and Marshall along with bringing home the Southern Boone Classic Title. You could tell we were playing at a different level then the first month of the season. Some of the best compliments I receive are the ones from coaches that say how that wasn’t the same Boonville team they saw earlier in the season.”
The first year in the Tri-County Conference also brought about change for Boonville. While competing in the North Central Missouri Conference the previous 10 seasons, which they dominated by winning the last five titles, Boonville picked up where they left off in the TCC with only blemish against Osage in the final game of the regular season.
Hunziker said as a whole the new conference is very competitive and has a lot of talent both with veterans and newcomers.
“We knew going in teams like California, Osage and Blair Oaks had a lot of pieces returning with all three coming off 20-plus win seasons,” Hunziker said. “Also you had teams like Southern Boone and Hallsville who struggled some last year but with many players returning along with some new faces would be much improved and would give teams problems later in the season after maybe starting off slow. So to go 6-1 and play Osage for the outright title on the last game of the regular season says a lot about what we accomplished and how much we grew as a team this season.”
While finishing second in the TCC, the Lady Pirates also picked up some hardware in the conference tournament by beating California in the third place game. The following week, Boonville finished second in the Centralia Tournament by losing in the championship against Class 2 Salisbury. Then, in January, Boonville finally brought home a first place trophy in the Southern Boone Tournament by beating the Lady Pintos by 15.
“Our goal for every tournament is to bring home a piece of hardware so I was very pleased that we did so,” Hunziker said. “You could tell as the season went along that we were improving so to finish off winning the last of the three tournaments proved that especially beating a quality opponent and rival in California.”
The Lady Pirates also had a number of highlights throughout the season. Hunziker said the No. 1 highlight was winning 16 straight games after starting off the season 5-2. “We beat some very quality teams along the way,” Hunziker said. “When you play some of the top teams in the area, you need to play at your best for the whole game so wins against teams like California, Blair Oaks, Marshall and Skyline come to mind. I’m sure there were moments when we struggled but those had to be at a minimum in order to come out on top.”
The struggles that seemed to haunt the Lady Pirates this season were foul problems along with free throw shooting. Hunziker said by running an aggressive type of trapping defense for the most part, the foul trouble is due to the girls being a little over aggressive. He said many of the fouls still can be prevented by moving their feet more without reaching or going straight up and not trying not to block shots and rebound the ball better. “A lot of times when you give up second or third chance opportunities the play ends with them scoring or us fouling,” Hunziker said.
As for the free throw shooting, Boonville hit only 314 of 532 shots for 55 percent.
Hunziker said he emphasizes the importance of winning at the charity stripe by shooting a lot of free throws in practice and even have incentives for making so many in a row (practices/games). But over the years, he said, the girls have struggled at the line.
“If you look back at some losses having a higher percentage would have helped,” Hunziker said. “As a team I would love to see us have 70% or higher but in order to do so we need to have more then just one or two that can accomplish this, we need everyone to step up.”
Hunziker also gave his thoughts on losing that last game to end the season. He said if you played their district over every week for a month, you might have a different champion each week. That says something about the quality of teams in their district, he said.
“With districts being held at home I was hoping that playing in a very comfortable environment would greatly benefit us, especially shooting wise,” Hunziker said. “We ended the evening with a low percentage from behind the arc, from the free throw line and missed some easy point blank layups and shots as well. To go out when you know we didn't play our best is tough but Marshall played a great game and did what it took to win. They have had one of the best seasons in their history and have represented the NCMC well.”
After 25 games and a little over four months, Hunziker said the 63 points per game that Boonville averaged for the season was higher than most Lady Pirate teams of the past. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, he said holding opponents to an average of 40 ppg is good especially with the tough schedule they play.
As for the 2019-20 season with three starters back, Hunziker said he has already told the players that are returning that they should all be excited and motivated for not only next year but the next few years. “With no juniors in the program we have two years of developing this core group of players,” Hunziker said.
As for the individual leaders this season for the Lady Pirates, freshman Addison Brownfield led the team with 368 points for an average of 14.7 ppg along with 100 steals for 4.0 spg, 80 assists for 3.2 apg, free throw percentage (92 of 132 for 70 percent), and three-point percentage (36 of 106 for 34 percent). Sophomore Kourtney Kendrick was the leading rebounder with 172 boards for an average of 6.9 rpg. Senior Jamie Lemmons, meanwhile, was the leading field goal shooter by hitting 115 of 202 shots for 57 percent.