Even coach Brad Shorter agreed Wednesday the resurgence of Webb City girls basketball might be a tad ahead of schedule.
After three straight trips to state, the Lady Cardinals needed just one year to reload for a return trip to Columbia.
Webb City (24-5) officially makes its return with an 8:30 p.m. game today against Smithville in a Class 4 semifinal at Mizzou Arena.
“As a coach, and as a program, you want to get back, and you want to have that confidence and the expectations where they expect to get back,” said Shorter, who is taking the Lady Cardinals to state for the fourth time in his five seasons. “We’re in a position where a lot of people didn’t think we could be.”
But a close look at the Webb City season suggests maybe it should’ve been expected.
The team’s only loss to a Class 4 team was a five-point defeat at defending champion Republic. In addition, three losses to Class 5 state-ranked Ozark and Nixa were by a combined 11 points.
Shorter also pointed out Webb City’s 4-3 Central Ozark Conference Large Division record mirrors Republic’s from last season. Now, the Lady Cardinals hope to duplicate Republic’s 2012 feat.
Webb City was a Class 5 team for each of the past two seasons, and returned to Class 4 in the spring for a two-year cycle.
However, Shorter knows it’s a steep hill to climb this weekend in Columbia.
Up first is a Smithville (25-4) team, which was state runner-up in each of the last two seasons.
Shorter said the Smithville plight reminds him a lot of his 2010 team, which won Class 4 state after an ’09 runner-up finish.
“We know Smithville is going to be in that same boat,” Shorter said. “We have to go in and play our game. We’re going to make sure that we give it our best effort.”
The winner likely gets the honor of playing the role of heavy underdog in Saturday’s final against Incarnate Word (29-0).
Incarnate Word has made four trips to Class 5 state in the past five seasons, including state titles in 2010 and ’11.
Return trips to Columbia could be possible for the Lady Cardinals, who do not have a senior.
The team is led by junior guard Mikaela Burgess, who averages 16.2 points per game.
The Webb City front line features a lot of size, with 6-foot-2 junior Casey Heger, 6-foot sophomore Desirea Buerge and 5-foot-9 junior Kaitlin Beason.