Higher expectations for Mark Twain

The 2021 Mark Twain girls basketball team. Front row left to right: Hannah Mallory, Riley Waters, Autumn Arndt, Anna Echternacht and Emily Evans. Middle row: Shaelyn Shepherd, Jocelyn Hudelson, Jordan Ball, Sydney Miller, Jazlyn Allieri and Madison Boleach. Back row: Madison Epperson, Alexis Ward, Taylor Martin, Audrey Ross and Madison Waddell.

CENTER, Mo. — The Mark Twain girls basketball program took a step forward last year.

The Lady Tigers had their first non-losing season in seven years and won the consolation bracket in both the Clopton Invitational and Tony Lenzini Tournament.

With that said, Mark Twain has higher expectations this season than a .500 record.

“A lot of the players have been part of the system for the last three years since I have taken over,” said Mark Twain head coach Matt Boswell. “We are hoping to improve on our win total from last year, from 11 wins to around 15 or 16 wins this year. We want to see a couple of top-three finishes in these midseason tournaments and have some success at the districts.”

Mark Twain will have to replace All-Conference First Team guard Emma Ross, the team’s leading scorer during her senior season last year.

The Lady Tigers plan on having several players filling Ross’ role, including her younger sister, Audrey Ross. Mark Twain also will rely on All-Conference Second Team selection Autumn Arndt as one of the team leaders.

“Emma was a tremendous player and she did a lot of good things for us on the offensive and defensive ends, but I really like the experience and balance with our starting lineup and first two girls off the bench,” Boswell said. “I don’t necessarily think that one person is going to come in and do everything Emma did. I think that everybody can contribute a little bit more to make up for what we are losing.”

Another key player for Mark Twain is senior center Anna Echternacht, who has had a big presence in the interior for the Lady Tigers.

Boswell will look for Echternacht to be anchoring the middle of the defense and for Arndt to have a big role on the defensive side.

“We kind of play a lot by committee,” Boswell said. “We have a lot of help with defense. A lot of different looks for different teams. I think Autumn is going to be someone we lean on a lot on defending the other team’s best player. Trying to shut them down a little bit. Emily Evans is another girl who we give a lot of different assignments because she’s quick, she’s strong and she’s big.”

Other players who will have key roles on varsity include sophomores Taylor Martin and Madison Boleach, junior Madison Waddell and seniors Riley Waters and Hannah Mallory.

“They are definitely girls that can come off our bench that can come in and be sparkplug players,” Boswell said. “They can do some things offensively and defensively. I like our depth. I like that our girls can come in and give girls breaks when we are running and pushing the ball.”

Mark Twain has had a lot of buy-in for their offseason program with the girls taking a trip down to the Ozarks for a shootout during their summer camp.

The Lady Tigers fell in the first round of the Class 3 District 6 Tournament last season and are hoping this is the year they finally advance further into district play. Mark Twain has not advanced to the second round since the 2010-11 season.

Boswell is hoping that the team will use the regular season tournaments as a way to prepare for the district tournament.

“We’ve tasted success last year,” Boswell said. “We had a winning (regular) season in the first time in awhile and these girls are starting to learn what it takes to succeed. So hopefully we can build off of that and find success in these early season tournaments. Then know everything we do throughout the season just builds for the postseason.”

2021-22 Schedule

Nov. 23 — at Paris

Nov. 30 — at Palmyra

Dec. 3 — at Community

Dec. 6-11 — Monroe City Tournament

Dec. 14 — Monroe City

Dec. 17 — Clopton

Dec. 20 — at Bowling Green

Jan. 3-8 — Clopton Invitational

Jan. 11 — Silex

Jan. 14 — at Wellsville-Middletown

Jan. 17-22 — Tony Lenzini Tournament

Jan. 25 — Canton

Jan. 28 — Marion County

Feb. 1 — Wright City

Feb. 4 — at Van-Far

Feb. 8 — at Montgomery County

Feb. 10 — at Elsberry

Feb. 15 — North Callaway

Feb. 18 — Louisiana

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