After a disappointing loss in the Class 5 sectionals, it’s been difficult for Nixa High School girls basketball coach Jennifer Perryman to look ahead to her team’s bright future.
“I know we made a lot of strides, and I know we did a lot of really good things,” Perryman said a couple of days after a 63-60 loss to Parkview. “I hate the way it ended, but unless you win it all, you always do.”
Nixa held a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter before the Lady Vikings mounted the comeback, dashing the Lady Eagles’ chances at a rematch with Columbia Rock Bridge in the state quarterfinals.
But even though the loss left a bad taste in their mouths, there are a lot of positives that came out of this season for the Lady Eagles.
Nixa finished with a 20-9 record, as well as a district championship, in beating out Ozark, Branson, Kickapoo and Glendale to claim the crown.
The championship gave Nixa back-to-back district championships for the first time in 40 years. This for a program that transitioned from veteran coach Jim Middleton to his top assistant, Perryman, last summer.
“I’m proud we got to 20 wins; that’s kind of always a key number,” Perryman said. “And I’m proud that we won our district for the second year in a row. I wish we could’ve got past sectionals and gave (Columbia) Rock Bridge another try. … But props to Parkview for what they did (against us).”
Looking ahead to next year, Perryman will lose six seniors (including three starters) from this year’s team in Angie Allen, Kayla Copeland, Sydney Hammit, Bailey Pratt, Alex Sorenson and Madison Wells.
Allen, Sorenson, and Wells were all starters for the Lady Eagles.
Allen and Sorenson gave Nixa a nice duo inside, while Wells used her versatility to make an impact on the perimeter and in the paint.
“I had really good seniors this year,” Perryman said. “They were good leaders on and off the floor. They really taught the younger girls what it’s all about — what happens when you buy in, work hard and put defense and team first.
“Those younger girls really look at that and learn. Instead of rebuilding when you lose six seniors, I think we’re just going to reload.”
For Perryman, the “reloading” starts at the top with her best player, guard Toshua Leavitt, who will be a senior next year.
“I’ve got Leavitt back,” she said of her point guard who had 34 points in the sectional game. “She’s one of the best players in the state, in my opinion.”
The Lady Eagles also welcome back Carley Allen and Shelby Ewing, who both were key contributors this year.
“I think they learned a lot from our seniors,” Perryman said of her returners. “I think they’ll be ready to step in. The attitude of winning is back, and they saw some great things. I think they’re excited to fill those shoes.”