Pair of Pirates put up big numbers in final seasons

Lane collects 1,000 rebounds

Macks Creek coach Ron Duggan expects Hunter Lane would ace any geometry class.

That is because the Pirate senior has a knack for racking up points and rebounds, putting up a double-double in all but one game as a junior and every single game so far of his senior season. Lane simply has a sixth sense when it comes to judging how a ball will come off the rim.

“A lot of players don’t see where it is going to come off. I always say he ought to be a really good geometry student because he sees the ball coming off and he sees the angle,” Duggan said. “He just goes to the right spot most of the time and is committed to getting those rebounds.”

That kind of consistency has led Lane to some major career milestones. The senior previously reached 1,500 career points and during Senior Night on February 11 in a game against Hermitage, he collected the 1,000th rebound of his career.

“It was quite an accomplishment. I was real excited and had no idea I was close,” Lane said of the special night. “I knew I was within 100 but I did not know I was going to hit it that night. Everyone started cheering and coach gave me a ball that said, ‘1,000 rebounds’ on it.”

Practically seeing very little time on the floor, if any as a freshman, Lane went from averaging 18.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore to 26.2 points and 16.7 rebounds as a senior.

“You get 1,000 in three seasons that is pretty impressive,” Duggan said of Lane’s rebounds, of which only 27 were secured his freshman season. “I think he had 405 rebounds last year and I think he is going to eclipse that this year. It is not something many high school players can achieve so it is a really big deal.”

Well, it certainly helps that Lane stands at 6-foot-4, but any size advantage alone does not tell the whole story. For Lane, it also takes a consistent effort and he said he always plays with a chip on his shoulder as he pursues double-doubles with nothing being routine or expected.

“Just trying to get the inside position and read the ball,” he said of his consistency.

The numbers may rack up, but Duggan also commended the senior’s unselfishness.

“Even though he does take a lot of shots, we want him to. That is our focus,” the coach explained. “If someone is coming down the lane wide open he’ll give them the ball and he is not afraid to do that. If we need him to step out and shoot a 3-pointer or whatever, he’ll do that, too.

“Just one of those kinds of players that he’ll do whatever you ask him to do and he does it pretty well. He sees everything well.”

Lane’s journey and the journey of the Pirates continue with the opening round of district play on Saturday at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. However it plays out, Lane and Duggan will be sure to soak it all in. The coach will definitely miss having that 6-foot-4 tower taking care of everything in the area of the floor that bears his own name.

“He has done a great job for us and it is going to be some tough shoes to fill next year, for sure,” Duggan said.

Willis hits 1,000 career points

Macks Creek senior Jesse Willis said she has always looked up to older sister.

Well, Willis and her sister, Shelby, were reunited once again after the younger Willis joined her in the 1,000-point club at Macks Creek. The big night came during a home game against Walnut Grove on January 10 and Willis had no idea what was coming when she saw Pirate fans stand up and heard a few extra cheers after the ball fell through the net.

“I’ve always looked up to her so after I hit my 1,000th point I felt like I hit a milestone close to being her,” Willis said of Shelby, a 2018 graduate of Macks Creek whom Jesse had the privilege of playing with.

Well, Macks Creek coach Leah Rich said Jesse has put together a pretty solid career of her own, which began when Willis was a freshman.

“She was a great shooter and a great 3-point shooter, then. Always getting the steals for layups and always pushed herself hard,” Rich noted. “Her sister and her pushed each other very hard. There were times in practice they were pretty aggressive with each other, but they pushed each other to strive and meet those goals.”

Willis noted there was plenty she learned from the example her older sister set, but one thing she certainly picked up is that nobody makes it to 1,000 career points on their own.

“Just take my time on my shots, look for open shots instead of just hitting ones that are not open and pass the ball to my team so they’ll pass to me,” she recalled. “It took a lot of teamwork to get me there.”

The fact that the Willis sisters are both in the esteemed club at Macks Creek may be no accident, either. Jesse recalled working on the game with her father when she was younger and the bond they shared over the game. Now, as a senior, she is currently averaging 14.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and four assists and steals per game.

“No matter what she’s got going on, she just alway tries to give it her all, be a competitor and never wants to lose. I love that about her, she never gives up no matter what obstacles are in her way,” Rich said of the senior. “She keeps pushing hard, she’s very gritty and an aggressive defensive player.

“I was with them when her sister (Shelby) made the milestone at Osceola and it is just a basketball family. They love basketball, playing the game and winning.”

Rich went on to say that kind of example was never more evident than a game earlier this season in the Osceola Tournament where the Pirates were trailing by more than 20 points and fought back within three.

“That is the mentality she has always had. She can’t stand to lose and was always that way as a player,” Rich remarked. “I admire that in a player, the fact that she does not give up. I think she’ll help leave a legacy to the other kids- don’t ever give up no matter how many points you are down. Strive to get back in it.

“Coming back that far down shows what a competitor she is. She pushed the others to stay with her and the other girls worked really hard, too.”

Willis said it has been a fun ride at Macks Creek and there is no other school she’d want to play for. With districts on the horizon at Southwest Baptist University on Saturday, she’ll keep playing with the same mindset she’s always had.

“Try your hardest at all times because you don’t have very many games,” she said.