Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
JOSH HALL AND TOM RACKERS ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE
For many schools, the Missouri National Guard Shootout is an opportunity to play an unfamiliar opponent in an out-of-town venue. Leroy Bernskoetter’s team will have the advantage of familiarity.
Blair Oaks will make the short trip from Wardsville to face Harrisburg, whom the Lady Falcons defeated twice last season.
Blair Oaks will be dealing with some unexpected challenges, however, as the Lady Falcons have been bit by the injury bug early this season.
Veronica Wiebold has missed two games with a knee injury, and her future is uncertain, as she has yet to undergo an MRI. Carli Buschjost has a foot injury and was unable to finish Monday’s game against Fulton. What’s more, two junior varsity players who could help at the varsity level have suffered ankle injuries.
“We’re a little short handed right now,” Bernskoetter said Wednesday during a press conference for the Shootout. “… It just seems like you go through a year where you don’t have any (injuries), and then boom, all of a sudden, you just go, ‘Is it going to stop?’”
The Lady Falcons have gone 2-3 so far, including a second-place finish in the Eugene Tournament.
Last year, Blair Oaks defeated Harrisburg in a makeup game and in the Southern Boone Tournament.
“They’re a scrappy, aggressive team,” Bernskoetter said. “They can score. They’ll be a handful because of that. They’ll be a scrappy bunch, and they play well. And they were both very close games last year, especially the second time we played them.”
Blair Oaks has a little time off before its Dec. 18 game against St. Elizabeth, and following the Lady Falcons’ shootout game against Harrisburg, the team will get a chance to recuperate during Christmas break.
THE NEW BLOOMFIELD Lady Wildcats see the their game in the Shootout against Jamestown as an opportunity to play on a bigger stage than normal.
“I think it’s good for us to play in a big-time atmosphere,” New Bloomfield head coach Brett Craighead said. “A lot of times, these small schools don’t get an opportunity to participate in a game like this. I think it helps you learn how to play with a big crowd. It helps you in the postseason. It carries over to the postseason.
“It’s like a postseason game in the middle of December.”
The Lady Wildcats are used to playing in big-time games.
New Bloomfield went 15-12 last season while capturing the Class 2 District 8 title, its first since 1997. The Lady Wildcats only lost one player from that team, making expectations high for Craighead, who also returns six seniors.
“We’ve got six seniors that have been a big part of our club,” Craighead said. “They’ve been playing since they were sophomores. We’ve added a couple of younger girls to the mix, and we’re still trying to find where everybody fits in. I don’t think we’re where we want to be yet, but we’re working to get there.”
Jamestown Lady Eagles’ head coach E.H. Hirschvogel, now in his 12th season at the helm, believes the shootout provides a unique experience for smaller schools.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Hirschvogel said. “The atmosphere that the girls are going to get to play in, the crowd, Jefferson City’s big court — it’s something that’s a little different for us. It’s a really fun day and it’s a lot of excitement. Getting to go out and play a good basketball team, it’s a good challenge for us, as well.”
Jamestown has jumped out to a 2-3 start, but the Lady Eagles have been competitive in all their games this season.
Hirschvogel hopes the shootout will help his team grow as the season progresses.
“This shootout is a really good collection of a lot of good local ball teams,” he said. “It’s fun to be involved in, it’s fun to play in, but it’s also fun to get to stay around and watch these good teams and good coaches. There’s a lot to learn just by watching.”
THE CALIFORNIA LADY Pintos will enter the Shootout with a squad still learning what it means to play on the varsity level.
“We knew we were going to be young going in,” California coach Bobby Sangster said. “It’s been a process and we’re learning.”
The Lady Pintos are 2-3 this season, not the start Sangster has been used to in his time in California.
“We had the lead with a minute to go in two of those losses, so if you turn those around, we’re 4-1 and we’re happier with our record,” he said. “They just slipped through our fingers. The bounces didn’t go our way.
“But the girls are sticking with it, they know it’s a long season and we have work to do. They believe in the system.”
California will face Hermann in the Shootout.
“Hermann doesn’t care if its 12-10 or 78-75, they can play any style,” Sangster said. “Games agianst them have always been battles, whenever we lock horns it’s a fun game.”