Leading up to the high school basketball season, the Branson Tri-Lakes News will preview the upcoming basketball seasons.
Last year was a historic one for the basketball Lady Bulldogs: most wins in school history with 27, the deepest run in the postseason with a third-place finish, the best finish to a season yet, 400th win for head coach Ken Elfrink.
And all they want is to break those records from last year.
It won’t come without a little bit of difficulty, though.
Elfrink plans his schedule out with tough games before December. Blue Eye plays in the Southwest Central League, which can have varied competition for the bronze medalist team, depending on the year.
So, Elfrink ensures the girls have a tough schedule early to prepare for a tough postseason.
“We’ve always kind of been that way,” Elfrink said. “We try to schedule tough early.”
The Lady Bulldogs start the season against Strafford on Monday, Nov. 23. Strafford has won the Class 3 state title five years in a row. The challenge of facing Strafford will set the tone for Blue Eye since the team will also play in their own tournament and the Pink and White Tournament.
“We’ve got a lot of tough games right before Christmas, so our schedule’s really tough early on,” Elfrink said.
Blue Eye graduated several senior leaders last year, including Kohnnar Patton who plays at Evangel University in Springfield. She was what Elfrink called a silent leader on and off the court.
Elfrink said he’s going to look to junior Riley Arnold to take Patton’s place as point guard but hopes she will be more of a vocal leader when directing her team. Luckily, Arnold has been the leader of several teams for Blue Eye in recent years. The junior helped the volleyball team to a district title, the cross-country team to a state championship and she has three individual gold medals from cross-country.
Riley’s twin sister, Avery, will also share some of those leadership roles.
“Riley will be our team captain on the floor, her and Avery both,” Elfrink said. “She will be that vocal leader who can see the game from a true point guard’s perspective.”
Arnold isn’t the only one he will be relying on, though. This entire team knows what success looks like. Last year, the girls placed third at the Class 2 state championships.
The Lady Bulldogs played in their jamboree on Tuesday night, and Elfrink said there was a lot of promise there. Elfrink said the chemistry within the team not only makes them a good basketball team but a fun one to watch, too. The high-tempo, transition-focused basketball will make it entertaining basketball for the full season.
“We get that first game on Monday, and it should be exciting,” Elfrink said. “Fans look forward to watching this team play, so it should be interesting. We’re excited.”
Blue Eye Girls Basketball Schedule
Nov. 23 vs. Strafford
Nov. 30-Dec. 5 at Blue Eye Invitational
Dec. 8 vs. Berryville
Dec. 14 at Miller
Dec. 17 vs. Forsyth
Dec. 28-31 at Pink and White Classic
Jan. 7-9 at Sparta Lady Classic
Jan. 14 at Reeds Spring
Jan. 19 vs. Omaha
Jan. 21 at Fair Grove
Jan. 25 at Purdy
Jan. 28 vs. Crane
Feb. 1 at Sparta
Feb. 4 vs. Spokane
Feb. 8 vs. Southwest (Washburn)
Feb. 11 at Galena
Feb. 13 vs. Liberty (Mountain View)
Feb. 15 at Clever
Feb. 18 at Billings