New leaders hope to bring girls basketball fifth straight title


John Flanegin

Senior guard Brianna Ellis looks for an open teammate in a 41-76 loss in the Norm Stewart Classic to Kickapoo Dec. 4 at Columbia College. As captain for the Lady Bruins , Ellis hopes to lead her squad to a fifth straight state title.
Four years, four state titles. That statistic alone explains just how much of a force the girls basketball team has been on the hardwood in both Missouri and the national scene of high school hoops in the past four seasons.
The Lady Bruins (2-2) had built themselves into a well-oiled machine under Head Coach Jill Nagel, widely renowned as one of the state’s most brilliant basketball minds, and sealed their reputation as one of, if not the premier sport, of RBHS.
That machine, however, lost two of its cogs when Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year Sophie Cunningham, and 6’4 paint protector Cierra Porter made the 2.8 mile trip north to play basketball for the Missouri Tigers after graduating last year.
The exodus of the star tandem has left two massive holes for the Lady Bruins on both sides of the ball and leadership for the back-to-back-to-back-to-back champions.
Enter 5’7” senior guard Brianna Ellis, a three-time state champ and the latest team captain adding her name to a long list of elite players to head RBHS girls basketball. Like those before her, Ellis is up to the challenge of guiding her squad to yet another state title.
“I definitely want to lead the team back to the destination we made it to last year,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be a different journey with a new team. We’re young but talented, and I’m glad I get to lead such a great group of girls.”
Among the group is the duo of juniors Madison Treece and Avery Schroeder. Standing at 6’4” and 6’5”, respectively, the pair make up two-thirds of one of the state’s tallest front courts and will be integral if RBHS hopes for a fifth straight title.
The Lady Bruins also return a talented group of sophomores including Katey Klucking, Payton McCallister, Kanisha Green-McClain, and Addie Logsdon each with a year of varsity experience under their belt.
For Klucking the ability to earn playing time during her freshman year on a championship team has groomed her for an increased role in her sophomore campaign.
“Last season prepared me for this season by allowing me to be in a hard game, learning how to handle pressure, and finding openings to shoot or to find my teammates and give them looks to score,” Klucking said. “Playing with the seniors last year really pushed me to become a better player.”
Those same seniors also had a big impact on Ellis, who this year hopes to carry on some of the lessons Cunningham and Porter instilled in her in the trio’s time together.
“There’s two things you can always control and that’s effort and attitude,” Ellis said. “That’s always something we instill in the program. We’re a family, and we play for God and our teammates. It’s basically a sisterhood.”
Expecting a child in January, the team will be without Nagel for a chunk of the season.
“We will be fine. Coach Smith and Coach Ruppe are awesome coaches and as players we know what to do and what the coaches expect from us,” Klucking said. “We all want to make Coach Nagel proud so we are going to work extra hard.”
How do you think the Lady Bruins will handle the loss of Porter and Cunningham? Leave you comments below.