DIAMOND — The Diamond Wildcats finished 13-13 overall and 8-1 in the Spring River Valley Conference last season in head coach Jacob Srigley’s second season.

“We had some big moments last year,” Srigley said in a preview for the 4-State Coaches Association. “We won a couple of games at the buzzer, one of which turned into a nationwide viral video and another that gave us a conference win over our rivals Pierce City. We had a really strong run in conference play and came up a bit short against Greenfield in the conference championship game. I was really proud of our kids for weathering some tough situations that came up throughout the year, and coming together as a team. We played our best ball at the end of the year, which is all you can ask for as a coach.”

The Wildcats only have one returning starter in senior Hunter Renfro and the loss personnel wise that hurt the most was the graduation of 1,000-career point scorer Carter Prewitt, who averaged 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 steals last season.

“There is a lot to like about him (Renfro),” Srigley said. “He is a big, strong athlete that creates a lot of matchup problems. He has really matured as a basketball player and we look to him to be a guy who can carry a lot of the load for us.”

Christian Maturino missed his entire junior season with an ACL tear and he’s back in the fold for his senior campaign.

Chad Stephens and Colby Housh, a pair of juniors, earned big minutes last season as sophomores.

Like every coach before a season, Srigley expressed a lot of excitement for the upcoming season.

“(Excited about) how much this group loves being in the gym,” he said. “They are always wanting me to open it up and let them get in and get to work. We are going to have some growing pains and some trial by fire situations this year, but they are going to be a great group to coach and I can’t wait to get started.

“Lack of experience will be our biggest challenge. We have some talented kids in the program, but we don’t have many with varsity experience. If they grow and improve like they did through the summer, we have a chance to be really tough after Christmas.

“(Expect) to get better every day. We preach to the kids that we have to improve every single day. I think this group can really develop into a good team, but it is going to take time and the willingness to trust the process and learn from mistakes. We expect to be extremely competitive every night. If we can do that, we can surprise some people.”

Diamond opens its season Tuesday on the road against Southwest and some of the more interesting schedule wrinkles this season happen in December, with the Wildcats hosting a tournament after Thanksgiving, a home game against Fair Grove on the 12th, and a road contest against McDonald County on the 21st, Diamond’s last game of the 2017 portion of the season.

The Wildcats also play tournaments at Seneca and Crane.

GIRLS BASKETBALL
The Diamond Lady Wildcats have one starter back from a 5-20 overall and 1-8 SRVC team with a new coaching staff.

The Lady Wildcats do return their starting point guard Lauryn Macy, a junior who became a part of the varsity mix during her freshman year.

Junior guard Sidney McMullen made a few spot starts last season and senior forward Alyssa Cain is the only other varsity letterman back for this season.

The Lady Wildcats’ biggest loss was 1,000-career point scorer Kelsi Eden.

Diamond’s new coaches are head coach Marty Atnip and assistant Clay Kinman.

“Being my first year at Diamond, we will be trying to first be tough on the defensive end,” Atnip said in a preview for the 4-State Coaches Association, “and hopefully cause some problems with an aggressive style of play. The girls are buying into what I am trying to sell them as far as mentally and scheme wise, now we just have to get all on the same page. I believe by season end, we should be a very dangerous team come districts.

“Two major challenges are lack of numbers within the program and a lack of size. We want to be more competitive and a solid, fundamental team that on any given night can beat any opponent we play.”

The Lady Wildcats have 12 players and those in the mix are junior Alyssa Wright, junior Catalina Rangel, junior Rosario Martinez, sophomore McKayley Greninger, sophomore Katie Langford, and junior Haylee Austin.

Like the boys, the Lady Wildcats open their season Tuesday on the road against Southwest and then host the Diamond tournament after Thanksgiving.

In addition to all the SRVC schools on the schedule, Diamond steps outside the conference to play Big 8 schools Mount Vernon, Seneca, East Newton, and Monett, the first three of which play in the same Class 3, District 12 as Diamond.

BOYS SCHEDULE
Nov. 21 — at Southwest
Nov. 27-Dec. 2 — Diamond Tournament
Dec. 7-9 — Seneca Tournament
Dec. 12 — vs. Fair Grove
Dec. 14 — vs. Baxter Springs
Dec. 19 — vs. College Heights
Dec. 21 — at McDonald County
Jan. 2 — vs. Lockwood
Jan. 5 — at Seneca
Jan. 9 — at Pierce City
Jan. 12 — at Miller
Jan. 16 — vs. East Newton
Jan. 19 — vs. Jasper
Jan. 22-27 — Crane Tournament
Jan. 30 — at Mount Vernon
Feb. 6 — vs. Golden City
Feb. 9 — at Liberal
Feb. 13 — vs. Sarcoxie
Feb. 16 — at Greenfield

GIRLS SCHEDULE
Nov. 21 — at Southwest
Nov. 27-Dec. 2 — Diamond Tournament
Dec. 4 — at Wheaton
Dec. 7 — at Mount Vernon
Dec. 11 — vs. Seneca
Dec. 14 — at Wheaton
Dec. 19 — vs. College Heights
Jan. 2 — vs. Lockwood
Jan. 4 — vs. East Newton
Jan. 8 — at Monett
Jan. 11 — at Miller
Jan. 18-20 — NEO Tournament
Jan. 23 — at Pierce City
Jan. 25 — vs. Jasper
Jan. 29-Feb. 3 — McAuley Tournament
Feb. 6 — vs. Golden City
Feb. 9 — at Liberal
Feb. 13 — vs. Sarcoxie
Feb. 16 — at Greenfield