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Returning players provide extra vibe for county teams

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Crawford County teams have already completed a number of games this season and with no holiday tournaments, they will get a few games in before conference season reaches full swing after the first of the year.

This is a look at some of the players expected to make an impact for their team and their respective conferences.

Van Buren Lady Pointers

Van Buren’s Avery Salisbury goes up for the shot against Heritage on Feb. 14, 2020, at Clair Bates Arena.

• Brooklyn Kannady (Junior). Already a three-year starter for the Lady Pointers as coach Michael Kinney took over the program in the spring. Kannady, an all-state tournament team and all-conference last year, had her career-high with 23 points against Har-Ber. She came into the season hitting 31 percent from behind the arc and averaged 11.5 points per game.

• Bailee Woodard (Senior). The guard averaged 10.3 points per game in her last seven games as a junior. Woodard's career-high 15 points were against Springdale.

• Van Buren's Avery Shelly (senior) transferred from Northside. "She's the workhorse of this group," said Kinney. "No one plays as hard as she does on our team. Definitely, the one to watch."

Alma Lady Airedales

Alma’s Drew Battles drives around Southside’s Ethan Vaughn during play in the second quarter on Dec. 11, 2020, at Charles B. Dyer Airedale Arena.

• Loryn Kelley (Senior). Was selected all-conference last season and averaged 8.5 points and 6 rebounds per game. Kelley made 42 threes as a junior. "She is a kid that has gotten a lot better this summer and fall," said Alma coach Codey Mann. "She has worked hard on getting quicker and making herself into a really good player. We expect Loryn to have a big year for us." Kelley recently announced on social media she will be attending Briar Cliff University and playing basketball for the Chargers in Sioux City, Iowa.

• Lydia Mann (Sophomore). Played up as a freshman for the Lady Airedales and was named to the all-state and all-conference teams. She finished with 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and two assists per game. "She has a chance to be a special player," said coach Mann. "Lydia has worked hard on her shooting this summer and fall." The sophomore has offers from UAFS, Harding, and Tech. 

• Halyn Carmack (junior) was an honorable mention all-conference last season with six points and 3.5 assists per game. "She's an extremely skilled guard who just keeps getting better," said coach Mann. "She's working hard on becoming a big-time point guard. I think she will have a great year for us and take the next step in becoming a great player."

Cedarville Lady Pirates

• Chloe Morrow (Senior). As a junior, the 5-4 point guard averaged 9.4 points per game. Morrow and Kattie McBroom both have been a part of the Lady Pirate program since they were seventh graders. "Chloe is extremely athletic and competitive," said coach Drew Tencleve, who took over as interim coach during the postseason. "She has worked unbelievably hard and because of this and coupled with the improvement of each of her teammates, she is poised to have a huge senior year."

• Kattie McBroom (Senior). The Lady Pirate forward averaged 9.9 points per game last season. "Kattie is one of the top shooters in the area," said Tencleve. "She has worked hard this offseason to become a bigger threat off the dribble and it has paid off. She's one of the main pieces to our team's offense."  

Mountainburg Lady Dragons

Mountainburg's Annie Beasley goes up for the basket against Magazine at the Carl Rogers Gymnasium on Jan. 31, 2020.

• Annie Beasley (Senior). "You won't find a second where she's not giving you everything she has," said coach Zach Dean. "She is the general on defense and can shoot it well." Last season, the third-year guard hit eight three-pointers in a conference game to help the Lady Dragons win in overtime. Beasley averaged 9.4 points and three steals per game during the 2019-20 season.

• Haley Reed (Junior). The junior, who started as a sophomore last year, led the Lady Dragons with 13 points and three assists per game. "She has the ability to score in bunches," said Dean. "Not only can she shoot it but she can get the ball to the other shooters on the team.

Junior Jordan Watkins was the Lady Dragons' sixth man last season. "She was a spark coming off the bench as a sophomore," said Dean. "She's an intimidating force on the block and we look to be able to feed her a lot in the post." As a sophomore Watkins averaged 8.7 points and six rebounds per game.

Mulberry Lady Yellow Jackets

Mulberry's Amee Parish goes up for the shot during the Oct. 28, 2020, contest at home. The Lady Jackets won their season opener and Parish scored a career-high 31 points.

• Payton King (Senior). King is a three-year starter for Mulberry and averaged 15 points and seven rebounds last season. "We're very excited to see what Payton accomplishes this year," said coach Arel Ferguson. "She is a great leader and does a lot of unseen work for us that doesn't always show up in the stats. She had a strong junior year and I see her finishing out her career in a big way."

• Amee Parrish (Senior). A two-year starter for the Lady Jackets who averaged 10 points and seven rebounds a game last season. "Amee haw worked hard to become a top shoot and guard in our conference," said Ferguson. "She's a good defensive player and brings a lot to our team as a leader and a player."

• Mulberry has a couple more players expected to fly for the Lady Jackets. Junior Madi McNatt came off the bench as a sophomore and averaged eight points and four rebounds a game. Joining the squad is freshman Ashtyn Conley. "Madi has worked hard and is experienced. I'm excited about her junior season," said Ferguson. "Ashtyn had a really good year in junior high as an eighth grader. She has a really high basketball IQ and does a really good job running the point guard spot."

MEN'S TEAMS

Van Buren Pointers

• Gary Phillips (Senior). The 6A-West All-Conference point guard returns as the leading scorer with 14.5 points per game (51 percent field goals). He also added 2.5 rebounds and two assists per game. He also shot 76 percent from the line. Phillips, who has committed to play for the West Point Black Knights football team, is described as an "athlete and an elite attacking point guard," according to coach Brad Autry. 

• Avery Salisbury (Senior). Is a "can do it all and play every position" who brings his strength and his size (6-foot-2) to the court each game. Salisbury will play either guard or forward for the Pointers. He averaged 9.3 points and four rebounds per game. He hits 38 percent from beyond the arc.

Another senior, Jaiden Henry, was on the all-defensive team last season as he guarded the other teams' best player in each game.

Alma Airedales

The Alma squad will be young with Nathan Whalen and Drew Battles leading the charge after seeing some playing time last season. "We'll be working to improve throughout the season," said coach Stan Flenor. The team has battled Covid issues which have impacted practices and availability of personnel. Other players expected to help out the young squad include Hunter McCalister, Jacob Coursey, and Logan Taylor.

Cedarville Pirates

• Darryl Kattich (Junior). An all-conference selection who averaged 13.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.

• Seniors Austin Cluck, who transferred from Alma this season, and Austin Swaim are expected to be big factors for the Pirates. Swaim averaged 10 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game last season.

Mountainburg Dragons

• Ethan Gregory (Senior). Was an all-state selection as a sophomore but missed his junior year due to a knee injury. Gregory led the Dragons to a state tournament berth as a sophomore and led the team in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals that season.

• Waylon Cluck (Senior). All-Conference for the past two years. Averaged 10 points a game last season and according to coach Michael McDonald, Cluck may be "one of the best shooters in the area." Cluck had a career-high nine threes in a single game last season and has hit four or more three's in a game 12 times in the past two seasons. 

Mulberry Yellow Jackets

• Joseph Lewis (Senior). Last season Lewis averaged nine points and 1.5 steals per game. "He's a hard-working guard who has put in the work to improve his shooting. He always plays with great effort and is willing to put in the extra work," said head coach Zack Zajicek.

• Tyler Williams (Junior). For 2019-20, Williams averaged eight points and 10 rebounds per game. "Tyler is a physical player who works hard to rebound every play," Zajicek said. "He provides intensity and leadership every day in practice."