BAUXITE – After another 20-win season, the Bauxite Lady Miners basketball team recently received postseason honors a year after finishing 21-9 overall, 8-4 in the 5-4A Conference with a No. 3 seed in the 4A East Regional, falling 47-46 to Brookland in a heartbreaker and just missing out on state after reaching the state tourney the year before.
Bauxite 1,000-point scorer, senior Abby Beene, was the lone Lady Miner to earn All-State honors, as well as All-Conference, while also being named an AAA All-Star nominee. Beene took outright All-State honors after being named to the All-State Tournament Team and All-State Honorable Mention her junior season.
Beene, a University of Ozarks commit, finished her Bauxite career with 1,330 career points, which is good for second all-time for the Lady Miners behind Mary Crow’s 1,921. Beene had a career senior season as she led Saline County with 502 points and a 17.3 scoring average. She scored a career-high 36 early in the season.
“Her basketball instinct and scoring will be missed,” Bauxite Coach Greg Chenault, finishing his second season at the Lady Miner helm, said.
Beene also led the Lady Miners with 6.0 rebounds per game, including two assists and two steals per game. She shot 56 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3-point range and 73 percent at the free throw line.
Taking 5-4A All-Conference honors for Bauxite was senior Gracie McDade and freshman Kennedy Ballard.
McDade, earning her second All-Conference selection, averaged 9.7 points per game her senior year and was in the county top 10, adding 4.0 rebounds on average, which were both improved from last season. McDade tied a career-high with 21 points twice her senior year.
“Her competitiveness will be sorely missed,” Chenault said of McDade.
Ballard also averaged 9.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, with Chenault ranking Ballard the most improved.
“To accomplish that as a freshman says a lot,” the Coach said. “She was our leading scorer by average in the last few games. She has a chance to be special.”
Ballard scored a career-high 18 points midseason and led the Lady Miners with a 13.7 average the last six games, and 16.3 the last three.
Earning All-Conference Honorable Mention for the Lady Miners were seniors Gracie Hill and Layla Patrick, and junior point guard Stephanie Rico.
Hill is also a University of the Ozarks commit averaging 8.8 points and four rebounds per game during her injury-ridden senior season, shooting 83 percent from the free throw line. Hill missed seven games with a leg injury, including six straight during the midway point.
“Was plagued with injuries all year,” Chenault said. “I hate it that she didn’t have the senior year that she deserved for the amount of work put in, but that’s part of it sometimes.”
The senior Patrick averaged 5.5 points and five rebounds her senior campaign while providing solid defense.
“Her energy and enthusiasm will be missed,” Chenault said.
Rico also averaged 5.5 points and a team-leading four assists, averaging 2.5 rebounds and two steals per game. Her 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio impressed Chenault.
“That’s unheard of in girl’s basketball,” he said. “She’ll be back for a stellar senior campaign and is being tasked to get to 10 points per game as a senior.
Along with seniors Beene, McDade, Hill and Patrick, senior Bay Davis earned the Teammate Award as “she showed up ever day and gave 100 percent,” per Chenault, adding a 3.95 GPA.
“This group of seniors compiled 44 wins (including 23 in 2021-22) in two years, which ties the record from 2009-2010 era which won 20 in year one followed by 24 (school record) wins in 2010-11,” Chenault explained. “Their state tournament appearance in 2021-22 will be remembered; having 50 teams in your classification and making it to the final is an accomplishment.
“Winning the Bauxite Christmas Tournament in 2022 was a highlight. We played a tough schedule while dealing with a lot of injuries. The stars have to line up for you to make the 4A state and losing by one point to Brookland was a heartbreaker.”
Despite losing those key seniors, the Lady Miners will have some experience returning with Rico and Ballard leading the way.
“We will return about 36 percent of our scoring next year,” Chenault said. “That’s almost identical to year one when we took over the program. That 2021-22 group exceeded expectations, and I expect nothing less from this upcoming group. The standard has been set and they know what needs to be done to carry it forward.
“It will take hard work and commitment, for sure, but they are up for it. Led by seniors Stephanie Rico and Maddie Grace Stacy, this team will play a different style being smaller. Maddie is someone that is poised to step up her senior year. Stephanie will need to improve her scoring to double digits as a pass-first point guard, which is hard to do. Of course, Kennedy Ballard will assume the role as a bonafide scorer; that’s a tough task night in and night out while being face guarded, in some cases.
“Ashlynn Robinson and Kady Beth Jacks are two players that will have a big role. Ashlynn played up as a freshman this year while Kady Beth Jacks will be expected to become an even better shooter/ball handler. I am also looking for contributions from several others in all classes. We have some sophomores that will contend for playing time immediately. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started a different lineup each night depending on how practice goes. It will be competitive, for sure.”