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The Conway Christian Lady Eagles move up into a new conference this year.

“Our new conference should be really tough,” said head coach Trey Lynch, who is in his third year as coach at Conway Christian. “Bigelow is probably the favorite as they return their core from last season’s state quarterfinal team and add a really talented sophomore.

“Quitman graduated a very decorated senior class from last season’s state runner-up team, but they will reload quickly with a good group of young guards.”

Lynch said Hector moves into the league with a young bunch who reached the state tournament last season, and of course, any matchup with St. Joseph is a game to watch.

“They return their best two players, and their size will make them hard to guard,” Lynch said.

He said Conway Christian will be tested early in its nonconference schedule, which includes Baptist Prep, Des Arc, Flippin, Bauxite, Shiloh Christian, Central Arkansas Christian, Perryville, Earle, Wonderview and Nemo Vista.

Conway Christian finished 17-16 overall a year ago, making it to the Class 2A state quarterfinals. Returning this season are senior forward Emily Dather, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and senior guard Brady Callaway, who averaged 5.3 points.

“Emily is our best defender and usually draws the role of checking the other team’s best player,” Lynch said. “She is a very active rebounder and a steady threat from behind the 3-point line.”

Lynch said Callaway provides experience in the shooting-guard role. He said she is a smart player and a 3-point shooter who can “be a major X factor in our offense.”

Sophomore Josie Williams returns after leading the team with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists last season. Williams has received an offer from Harding University and is drawing interest from a number of other schools, including Arkansas Tech, Arkansas State and Davidson, Lynch said.

“Josie Williams makes us go,” Lynch said. “She is a playmaking guard, a dynamic scorer and a great leader who knows how to elevate her teammates.

“She is the most competitive and driven kid I have ever coached.”

Sophomore Kara Keathley chipped in with almost 3 points and 3 rebounds per game last season.

“She is our utility knife,” Lynch said. “She plays much bigger than she is and can defend 1 through 4, and fills a handful of different roles on offense.

“She has a great motor and helps to consistently raise our energy level.”

Lynch said sophomores Emily Stover, Gracie Hubbard and Anna Hartley will provide depth that was lacking last season. He said Conway Christian played most of last season with only six healthy players.

Senior forward Sophie Fulgham missed all of last season and most of her sophomore season as the result of an injury. Lynch said he is excited to have her back, and she will provide a midrange scoring threat and some much-needed strength on the boards.

Lynch said sophomore Mallory Malone gives the Lady Eagles a defensive presence in the interior. He said that offensively, she has really worked to improve her post moves and hopes to add “a new dimension to our attack.”

“Sophomore Lily Brister will provide energy and versatility in a key role off the bench,” Lynch said.

He said Conway Christian made a big jump, going from just four wins in 2018-19 to reaching the state quarterfinals last season.

“This group is a joy to coach,” Lynch said. “The girls approach each practice with lots of energy and work well together.

“With a good blend of experience and developing underclassmen, we are striving to make another jump forward this season.

“While we’ll likely experience some growing pains along the way, these kids are hungry to compete for a conference championship and, hopefully, make some noise in the postseason.”

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