Mexico girls basketball coach Ed Costley would look over last year’s stats this offseason and think about one thing: How would his Lady Bulldogs replace Raigan Playter?
There was a double-digit hole missing in his offense. Gone was Playter’s 12 points, 2.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game. Playter was Mexico’s leading scorer and a first-team North Central Missouri All-Conference selection her senior season. She signed with Culver Stockton College, and with her departure, 27% of last year’s offense is now in Canton.
The biggest gap for Mexico to overcome is Playter’s shooting. She shot 142 threes last season while the rest of the team combined for 152 shots from deep. Playter made 49 of them, leaving her at 34% from beyond the arc. The rest of the team made 33 for a pedestrian 21.7%.
Replacing that production was a major question Costley has had to answer.
“That’s going to be the biggest concern: Where can we get that consistent outside shooting?” Costley said. “We know we’ve got a team that’s very good off the dribble. We’ve got some good inside play. We’ve got to figure out a way to spread the defense out.”
Costley knows one player can’t replace that production, especially with a team that’s filled with guards better suited to attack off the dribble and get out in transition. It’s about getting his slashing guards to take two to three extra 3-pointers a game to keep defenses honest and keep them from packing the paint against forwards Logan Blevins and Shelbi Shaw.
Senior Reghan Smith is poised to take that leap this season. She averaged eight points, 2.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds a game last season while joining Playter on the NCMC first team. Smith primarily used her explosiveness off the bounce to get to the rim or create for others, but this year Mexico needs her to expand on the 48 threes she took last season. Two 3-point attempts per game won’t cut it this season as the Lady Bulldogs’ lead guard.
Costley also needs an increase in threes from junior Abigail Oetting. She also attempted 48 threes last season and hit 10 of them, for 20.8% from deep. But that will increase with the emphasis on outside shooting this offseason.
All this is needed to allow Blevins, Mexico’s second-leading scorer from a year ago, more space in the lane to create. She averaged 9.7 points and a team high 4.4 rebounds a game last season, earning her second-team All-NCMC honors.
The senior is excited to take the mantle of the Bulldogs’ new leading lady on offense.
“I’m ready to take that on and I’m ready to take that challenge,” she said.
Costley wants to pick up the tempo offensively this season, and getting out in transition is the first step in achieving that.
“We’re going to struggle a little bit in a half court,” Costley said. “We can’t live in a half court set. We’re going to have to try and figure out ways to get more transition points.”
To help achieve this, the Lady Bulldogs will be more aggressive on defense this season. They will switch defenses constantly to give opponents different looks: full-court man, 3/4-court traps and zone pressure to speed up opponents.
The strategy will get Mexico playing faster but will contrast the traditional post touches Blevins would normally get. It’s about finding the balance between playing fast and keeping the Lady Bulldogs’ most skilled scorer and best offensive rebounder involved.
Mexico finished second in the NCMC last season with a 7-3 league record but lost in the district semifinals to St. Francis Borgia.
Despite the loss of Playter, there is optimism this is the year the Bulldogs will break through.
“This season I feel like we have more speed than we’ve had in the past and I feel like we’re more mature,” Smith said. “Last year we had some younger girls, so now that they’re more experienced, I think we’ll go farther.”
Mexico was scheduled to open the season at home Tuesday against Battle.