Junior Kenny Lesley and Sophomore Wayne Holland looks to deny the in-bound pass against Highland during the season opener on Monday night.
The top ten ranked team in the state Elsberry Indians started their season Monday night against a young Highland squad, picking up a 56-33 victory.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Indians basketball program has earned respect from coaches throughout Missouri.
Just look at their performance over the last several years. Tournament Championships, Conference Championships, District Titles and even a trip to the State Final Four.
So with that respect comes a #8 pre-season ranking in Class 2A in the State.
“Elsberry Basketball hasearned the respect from the coaches in the state of Missouri,” said Head Coach Ryan Parker. “I am extremely excited about this ranking but we know rankings don’t hold much water.”
In their first game of the season Elsberry started out quickly putting up double digits in both of the first two quarters.
Junior Big-Man Kenny Lesley took over on offense scoring seven in the first and adding another sixth in the second, but it was his presence in the paint that helped Coach Parker’s squad stifle a smaller Cougar team.
“Obviously having Kenny to protect the paint is a huge advantage for us,” said Parker. “We talk daily how if the ball gets to the middle of the floor we are in trouble as we try to force baseline where our added defender is with the out of bounds line.”
Their game plan worked to perfection as Highland rarely made it inside the paint the first half.
Lesley finished with a game high 28 points, but Coach Parker stated he needs more scoring from others beside Lesley and Junior Shooting Guard Rahiem Porter.
When talking about his other starters Coach Parker said, “[Adam] Sherrow and [Dylan] Howard have a lot of varsity experience, we expect them to contribute every night. We need scoring out of them! As far as [Rodney] Chatman he is one of the best shooters in our program and needs to get more looks than he did on Monday night. [Zach] Rimel has very little varsity experience and is just getting his feet wet, he is a kid for us that can knock down that open shot and stretch the defense.”
After coming out of the locker room down 23-14 the Highland Cougar played a much better game but couldn’t get the defensive stops to put them back in the game.
“Highland to their credit played extremely hard, probably harder than we did at times. They to are very young and I think some of their young kids got a little more comfortable and it showed in the second half,” said Coach Parker.
Up next for the Indians is the first round of the Peoples Bank and Trust Tournament [see bracket on this page]. Elsberry will face a very athletic Hazelwood East team in the first round on Monday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m.
“Definitely a challenge for us each night in the Troy Tournament. [Hazelwood] East is athletic and will pressure you in the full court all game and get up and down,” said Coach Parker. “We will have to get better in the ball pressure aspect, but I expect our kids to be ready to play and play at a high level.”
(The game will be on-line at www.elsberrydemocrat.com where you can now listen and watch live.)