(CAMERON, Mo.) It's a nine-mile trek east from the sidelines at Osborn High School to those at Cameron High School.
Matt Wenck made that trek in 2002 after coaching the Wildcats for five seasons."I learned a lot from Kevin Nichols, obviously," he said. "He's one of the best coaches in the state of Missouri."
Wenck joined the staff of long time Cameron boys Kevin Nichols as an assistant, becoming part of the lone Dragons team to reach the Show-Me showdown in 2006.But, after filling in as interim coach when Nichols suffered a heart attack later that year, Wenck got the itch to have a top job again.
"I had been an assistant for four years and that kind of made me want to be a head coach again."
So he took over that top job with the Lady Dragons. Now, he once again has a hand in taking a Cameron program to their first Show-Me Showdown.
"We went to summer camp at Nixa. After it was over, we sat down and I said: 'I think we're good enough to make it to the final four.' They all agreed.""Since we were little girls, we've always dreamed about this," forward Ashley Wills said. "We've watched games and just wanted to be out there when we got to high school."
"This has been one of our goals for a couple of years," forward Maizey Hughes said. "We're actually playing really well. We like it and we're having fun. That's what we do."
A 19-11 record is far from spotless, but the Lady Dragons say the strength of their schedule is paying off now."We beefed up our schedule and that helped. Playing these tougher teams is just like how we played at the beginning of the season," forward Brooke Lee said. "It just seems like we've been preparing and preparing for this and it's finally paying off.
The girls say the intensity of practice has been playoff-like all year long with an always-animated Wenck running the show.
But while they call him a character, he continues to just call himself 'lucky.'
"I hit it at the right time when the talent is there," he said. "Melia (Richardson), after we win big games, she'll see me in the hall and say: 'Aren't you glad we started playing when we were in third grade?' I'm super happy these girls have been playing basketball for about seven seasons together. That makes for a pretty good team."
Cameron faces St. James Thursday at 5 p.m. in Columbia.
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