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By Israel Potoczny

Expectations are high for the 2013-2014 West Plains Lady Zizzers after going 27-2 and capturing a Missouri Class 4 district championship a year ago.

The Zizzers will have to replace three seniors, including starters Andi Haney and Hannah Riggs. Haney, now the starting point guard at Harding, averaged 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 4.7 steals per game as a senior and earned All-State, All-Conference, All-District, All-Ozark Conference honors.

However, head coach Scott Womack says the cupboard isn’t bare as West Plains returns three starters and has a host of players chomping at the bit awaiting their turn.

Leading the way is all-district and all-conference performer Cassidy Johnson. A 5-foot-7 junior guard, Johnson is a standout perimeter player that made 62 3-pointers last season and averaged 13.6 points per game. Johnson didn’t start the first nine games of her freshman season, but has been a starter ever since and has averaged double-digit scoring both years.

“We are counting on her to lead us this year and step up her game to replace some of that scoring that we are losing in Andi Haney,” Womack said. “(Haney) will be a big hole for us to fill, but we feel like these girls being a year older, as a group, we can fill that void.”

The Zizzers also return a pair of players that earned honorable mention All-Ozark Conference honors in Shelby Acklin and Kelli Bowen.

Acklin is a 5-foot-9 senior guard that averaged six points and five rebounds last season, while Bowen was the Zizzers’ sixth man off the bench last season. Bowen is a 5-foot-8 junior that averaged eight points per game during conference play.

“(Bowen) really came on late in the year,” Womack said. “She is a difference maker because she is so athletic. She is one that we really need to step up and make a major contribution this year and she started showing signs of that last year at the end of her sophomore year.”

Also back is returning starter Breanna Harris, a 5-foot-8 senior. Harris averaged 4.5 points per game last season. Kendra Warren, a 5-foot-10 senior, is a returning letterman that will compete for time in the post. Junior guards Kelsey Collins, 5-foot-6, and Rachael Corsey, 5-foot-7, give the Zizzers an outside scoring threat.

Womack said 5-foot-7 freshman Payton Richards will start at the point this season. A talented player, Richards has already drawn interest from several college programs.

“She has played a lot of AAU basketball and traveling basketball and has played big-time ball and we are really excited about what she is going to bring to the table for us,” Womack said. “She has had a really good start of the season and is picking up on everything really well.

“I think she is who we are turning it over to to handle the ball and get us in our offense.”

Womack said several other players could compete for playing time off a junior varsity squad that went 13-3 last season.

“I know we lost a lot with those two senior starters, but we feel like the cupboard isn’t bare,” Womack said. “It is going to go back to how good our defense is and if we play hard at the defensive end, I think we’ll have a chance to be in a lot of games and be competitive.”

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