The Lady Mustangs are moving up a level.
And their coach is going with them.
Pettis County R-V approved Anthony Balbirnie last week as Northwest girls basketball head coach.
Balbirnie has served as an assistant boys coach and most recently guided the Lady Mustangs junior high group to a 14-0 record. Last season, Northwest secured the girls final of the Kaysinger Conference Tournament by a 30-point margin.
Balbirnie hopes returning seniors and a promising class of 2024 can help spin a dramatic varsity turnaround. Last season, the Lady Mustangs notched their lone victory via forfeit, losing the rematch by 39 points en route to a 1-23 record.
“It was a fun two years at the junior high level. Hopefully we can build on that at the high school level,” Balbirnie said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how they overcome adversity,”
Graduating from Windsor High School in 2009, Balbirnie played college hoops at North Dakota College at Bottineau before attending the University of Central Missouri. He started his coaching career assisting Rick Mills at Leeton before joining Pettis County R-V.
Balbirnie said recruitment and development will be a focus for the Class 1 program. Northwest listed six seniors on its 2019-20 roster and five juniors and sophomores combined.
“As a coach, I need to lead by example,” Balbirnie said. “Just continue to come in, whoever plays, to come in and improve and get better each day.”
While he is familiar with the school and program, Balbirnie said closed gyms due to precautions regarding the spread of COVID-19 will be a setback for the entire area.
“I really wanted to open up the gym, I wanted to have some elementary camps, I wanted to have some junior high programs,” Balbirnie said. “I believe they are really, really important to make sure that group of girls knows the fundamentals. As of now, all of that is canceled.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle for everyone.”
Balbirnie said the returning Lady Mustangs will be instrumental in exceeding last season’s finish. But elevating to the high school level with a familiar group is special, he said.
“To be able to continue to grow with them, go up with them, it’s awesome,” Balbirnie said. “I’m excited.”