PHILADELPHIA, Mo. — The Marion County girls basketball team has came a long way in the past few years.

The Lady Mustangs went from an 0-24 record in 2017-18 to a 10-15 record and a appearance in the Class 1 District 11 title game last season, just two years later after a low point for the school.

Marion County returns four starters from last year’s team as it hopes to make another postseason run in 2020-21.

“We have talked about how it will take consistency for us to take the next step this season,” said Marion County head coach Reed Plunkett. “We will have to buy into great team defense and rebounding night in and night out.”

The Lady Mustangs will be challenged by district rivals Atlanta, Canton, La Plata and North Shelby.

Plunkett has set a goal for the Lady Mustangs to be more consistent this season.

“Last year, we lost a lot of close games due to our inconsistency,” Plunkett said. “We feel that if we can be more consistent, it will give us a chance to fight for (the) district title this season. As that is a huge goal for the girls this season.”

Junior Delaney Straus has emerged as the team’s most versatile offensive player. Plunkett relies on her to set a fast pace and get other players involved in the offense.

Junior Halle Keilholz is also one of Marion County’s top scorers, as she has averaged double-digit points the previous two seasons.

The player Plunkett relies on the most for defensive play is also entering her junior season.

“Defensively, we rely heavily on Olivia Wood to set the tone for us,” Plunkett said. “Additionally, we are looking for the entire team to buy into team defense.”

Other players who will see significant action include senior Jordan Chatfield, junior Madison Stewart, junior Riley Donath and sophomore Tristen Holt.

“For me, the lineup is never 100% set due to matchups against other opponents,” Plunkett said. “Right now, I am confident in our depth, one through seven.”

Defense is something Plunkett and the coaching staff has stressed in practice.

“We have been working on our ability to play man-to-man defense a lot,” Plunkett said. “We feel this will enable us to be our best this year. Additionally, we work hard on establishing our pace of play.”

Marion County R-II School shut down on Tuesday, Nov. 17 for two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak. The Lady Mustangs Nov. 24 game at North Shelby was postponed.

When the school district re-opens on Tuesday, Dec. 1, Marion County will host Community High School in the home opener.

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