Last season, the Barton women’s basketball team pulled off some big wins.
Early November home wins over ranked Seward County and Butler had the Cougars feeling like they could compete with anyone.
Unfortunately, that success didn’t carry over on the road. The Cougars posted an impressive 12-4 record at home but just 4-10 on the road.
A stretch of 1-8 in late January and early February hurt Barton before three straight wins to end the regular season.
So the area of improvements are obvious for Coach Alan Clark.
“We simply have to play better on the road,” Coach Clark said. “For some reason when we went on the road we didn’t shoot the ball well and consequently, we didn’t play with the same competitiveness on the road as we did at home.”
Some of that could have been the youth of the Cougars. That youth of last year looks to become experience this year.
The top three scorers are all back.
Jaylin Stapleton led the Cougars as freshman last year with a 14.1 scoring average. Mallory Miller scored 11 per game and Taylor Reagan 10.6 as freshmen as well.
All three return as key pieces to this year’s team.
Stapleton, a 5-5 sophomore from Meade, is back to lead the way.
“Jaylin came in with a scorer’s mentality,” Coach Clark said. “That is good. But we are wanting her to make better decisions once she gets in the lane to make the right play. She did a really good job of that the last four or five games last year.”
Regan, a 5-10 sophomore form Otis-Bison High School, led Barton in rebounding at 10.1 per game.
“She is much stronger than she looks,” Coach Clark said. “She jumps well, she’s long and she has some hang time when she jumps. Taylor is a better shooter than she thinks she is around the perimeter. And she is just a great rebounder. What she is good at is going and geting rebounds and not just letting them come to her.”
Miller, a 5-9 sophomore from Goddard, made 82 3-pointers last season for Barton, hitting 45 percent from the 3-point line. She made 10 treys in a rare road win at Colby last year.
“She can really stretch the floor for us,” Coach Clark said. “That lets the other kids attack the basket knowing they are not going to help off Mallory on defense. We need to run more stuff to get her shots.”
Also back on the inside is the 6-2 duo of Fatou Ndao from Senegal and Irene Chukwudi from Nigeria. The two struggled at times adjusting to the more physical play in the States but combined to average more than 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“They were here all summer and worked hard in the weight room,” Coach Clark said. “They had to get stronger. Whether they are strong enough yet, we will see.
“The biggest thing with those two is to slow the game down. Not get in a hurry when they get the ball in the lane.”
Some new faces Coach Clark looks to make an impact include a pair of Kansas players.
Conner Keith, a 5-4 guard from Hill City will see time at the point for Barton. Kolby Davis, a 5-9 from freshman from Ellsworth, is a great passer. Coach Clark called her as good as passer as he’s had.
Richelle Turney, a 5-10 forward from Sacramento, Calif, will also be looked to for contributions. Coach Clark said she is very skilled and has some things to work on but has a chance to be very good.
The Cougars are picked to finish fourth in the Jayhawk West this season. The conference is back to the West and East format after being a single 14-team conference the past few seasons.
“We want to compete against those top level teams,” Coach Clark said. “We did that early at home last year but we need to be able to do it on the road and all season long this year.
“It’s our goal to be in the mix with those top level teams.”
After a season-opening contest with the Sterling JV Wednesday, the Cougars jump right into things against a Top 25 team at the Best Western/Booster Club Classic Friday.
Northeastern Oklahoma comes to the Barton Gym ranked No. 20 in the initial NJCAA poll.
“We are looking forward to the season,” Coach Clark said. “We will see where we are at against NEO. We like to get a ranked team early here and we’ve won some of those games.”
8 NW Tech