LEETON — Leeton freshman Bailey Fleming knew what to expect from her coach when she broke into the high school ranks this season because she had been playing for her dad, Leeton coach Travis Fleming, all her life.
“I started when I was five playing for him,” Bailey Fleming said. “It even started before that, when he coached at Holden, I used to spend every day with the basketball girls after school. I’d go to all the games.”
Even with the lifetime of experience, the first half of the season has been a learning experience for both father and daughter.
“Oh, a little bit of a roller coaster,” Travis Fleming said on coaching his daughter. “It’s not just my daughter, that’s hard enough. It’s my daughter and all her friends, so that’s a whole nother dynamic. So many of these kids I feel like are my own daughters.”
Travis Fleming isn’t the only coach on staff learning to coach their child. Assistant coach Julie Johnson’s daughter Jadeyn Johnson is a part of Leeton’s freshman class.
“It’s weird because we are in the same boat because her daughter is sitting there too,” Travis Fleming said. “It’s a unique dynamic that we are trying to learn on the fly.”
The group of Jadeyn Johnson, Jordan Crooks, Judi Cavender, Emily Taylor and Bailey Fleming traces their time together on the court back to elementary school where Travis Fleming was still their head coach. After dominating the middle school ranks, the 2019-20 season, the quintet has become a driving force of continuing the Lady Bulldog dynasty.
“It’s been fun, especially at practice because we get to push each other and we know each other, so we know what the other person is going to do,” Bailey Fleming said.
There was still a learning curve for the Flemings on how to handle the ride home as the coach-player dynamic transitioned back to a father-daughter relationship.
“The rides after, that’s the hard part really,” Bailey Fleming said. “I mean I ride back with him and he is still my coach in the car and it’s hard not to say stuff back to him after, but I know he is just trying to make me better.”
“It depends on the game really. If I play well, it’s a good ride home. If I play bad, it’s a ride of silence and then sometimes I get criticism here and there.”
“She won’t talk to me at all,” Travis Fleming said jokingly. “She has no problem. I try not to talk about it once we leave the gym.“
The influx of freshman talent has kept the Lady Bulldogs in contention with the top of Class 1. Leeton has compiled a record of 15-2 on the year and the No. 6 ranking in Class 1 in the Missouri High School Basketball Coaches Association poll. The Lady Bulldogs also look poised to claim a fourth straight district championship as the current No. 1 in the Class 1 District 8 seedings.
“I enjoy it, with the year we’ve had, how could you not enjoy it,” Travis Fleming said.
Leeton added another district win on Tuesday, Feb. 4, dispatching Kingsville 66-23.
The Lady Bulldogs held the Lady Tigers, who roster just five players, to eight points in the first half to take a 35-8 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“As busy as our week has been, with three games last week, played last night (Monday, Feb. 3) in Higginsville, it was nice just to be in a home game,” Travis Fleming said.
Leeton had four players reach double-figures with Regan Shaffer and Mattie Nausbraum each scoring 12.
Bailey Fleming and Kayla Crowder each chipped in 11 points.
Kingsville’s Casey Stout led the Lady Tigers with 10 points.
In Higginsville, Leeton took down the Class 3 Huskers 61-39, jumping out to a 20-7 lead in the opening quarter and never letting go.
Shaffer scored a team-high 20 points in the win while Bailey Fleming added 11.