Girls Return Experienced Core

Sullivan head coach Jordan Flora doesn’t let his players forget how last season ended.

The Lady Eagles were eliminated in the first round of the district tournament with a surprising 39-38 loss to Owensville. 

After slumping through the first half, Sullivan rebounded and took the lead in the fourth quarter. Owensville swiped the ball with time running out and scored the winning bucket.

“We were not ready to go at all,” Flora recounted. “I make sure they don’t forget it to feed the fire. Up to that point, they always came out ready, so it’s a good reminder.”

Flora steered the Lady Eagles to a 17-8 record and a share of the Four Rivers Conference championship in his first season. The Lady Eagles had to replace Bria Jones and Clare Shetley, the top two scorers from a district championship squad in 2017-2018.

Picked to finish fourth in the conference, Sullivan beat expectations and went 6-1 against a difficult group of opponents. 

The biggest carryover from former head coach Jason Merkel to Flora was the defense.

“I am 100 percent a defensive-minded coach,” Flora said. The Lady Eagles affirmed that by allowing just 40 points per game last season. 

Gaudy, but Flora and the Lady Eagles aren’t content to rest. 

“We want to hold opponents to 40 points or less,” he said. “Preferably 35.”

That’s a lofty goal, but Sullivan has the personnel to do it.

It starts with senior forward Mallory Shetley, a nightmare for opposing teams. She can smother anyone on the floor and there isn’t a spot she can’t cover. Her speed, athleticism, length and intensity force teams to always consider where she’s at. Shetley had nearly three steals and three blocks per game and Flora said she’s better than ever.

“She is one of the hardest-working girls I’ve ever met,” he said. “Her work ethic and drive has brought the team along.”

Sullivan has a total of six returning seniors. though just eight players will be rostered. The Lady Eagles won’t have much depth, but Flora believes their experience, intensity and defense will lead the way.

Senior guard Kya Harbour saw some ballhandling duties at the end of last season, but Flora said she’ll move back to the perimeter so she can spot up for 3’s. 

Sophomore Rylee Denbow will take the reigns of the offense at point guard, while senior Riley Lock will give Sullivan scoring and rebounding.

Junior guard Hanna Johanning has been working hard, Flora said, and she will be a big part of the rotation.

The Lady Eagles played at Jamboree on November 16 and Flora said they defended well, but struggled a bit on the help side.

On the offensive side, Flora expects the team to see more opposing zone this season and they have to improve at attacking it.

The FRC is stacked and Sullivan is aiming to win another title and get back on top of their district. Last season served as a good way to build that foundation as the Lady Eagles transitioned to Flora. They were picked to finish fourth in the conference and set about showing everyone they were wrong.

“Last year was us proving a point,” Flora said. The Lady Eagles may have surprised their opponents, but they should be more prepared this season.

With several weeks of strong practices, Flora said the team is anxious to get the season underway.  It begins Tuesday at Rolla, who Sullivan could very well see in February’s district tournament.

Sullivan Independent News

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