PITTSBURG — After turning the program around last season, Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton and his Purple Dragon girls are looking to take that success a step further in 2016-17.
Pittsburg finished last season with a 15-6 record and a second-place standing in the Southeast Kansas League, falling to St. James Academy in the first round of the sub-state tournament in Flaton’s first season at the helm. With three starters and several big-minute players returning, the Purple Dragons are primed and a ready to make a splash in the SEK as well as the postseason tournament.
“We just try to take it one practice at a time and one game at a time,” Flaton said. “It’s really just about improving our game every second and learning. We have to take things in and make sure that we can apply them.”
Senior forward Taylor Muff and guard Logan Lord highlight the returning players for the Purple Dragons this season.
“We’ve got some really good players returning,” Flaton said. “It starts with Taylor Muff and Logan Lord — they’re coaches’ daughters, they’re competitors and they’ve done this for four years … Those two have done a great job of becoming leaders.”
Muff averaged a team-high 16 points a game last season, while pulling down nine boards a game to lead the Purple Dragons.
Lord brings back her team-leading 2.8 assists average per contest. She scored five points a game last season.
Seniors Daeshia Turner, Brooklyn Rhue, junior Abbie Casper and sophomores Kaitlyn Kidd and Aubree Beitzinger figure to fill out majority of the rotation, providing Coach Flaton with plenty of experience and depth.
“I’ve notice that Brooklyn Rhue is stepping up, trying to lead by example and trying to be that kind of inspiration,” Flaton said. “Daeshia is a lead-by-example type of player, and probably the fastest girl on the team. We also have Abbie returning as a starter, with Kaitlyn Kidd and Aubree Beitzinger, who replaces her older sister, and she brings some of the same bull-like, stubborn greatness that we loved from [Ashlee Beitzinger].”
While several of the returners are established varsity players, Coach Flaton is looking for Rhue, Kidd and Beitzinger to step into biggers role this season. Though their minutes playing in varsity games are limited, he has seen enough to believe they are more than capable of being reliable role players this season.
Leadership and experience are the biggest strengths to the Purple Dragons this season, according to Coach Flaton. Though they had plenty of success last season, the early loss in the sub-state tournament left a bad taste in the team’s mouth — something the Dragons are looking to rinse out this season.
“We were right there last year, and we know it,” Flaton said. “We’d like to get back to that point, and then have a chance again. I think having that tenacity and experience will really help us out.”
Pittsburg kicks off the season at home with a 6 p.m. matchup against Louisburg.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.