Cabool Tournament is small-school basketball Mecca and this year is no different. However, this may be one of the most top-heavy fields in the last few years. Here is what you should know about the 2017 Cabool Holiday Tournament.
Eight and a Doughnut; Thayer is the favorite
Matt Pitts and company are well on their way towards another 20-win season, but they’re making a strong case as the best Class 2 team in Missouri. Defense wins championships and Thayer plays it at an elite level, allowing less than 34 points on average. They have three wins over schools south of the border, so this tournament could potentially match the Bobcats up with Licking or MV-BT/Liberty, as well as a potential matchup with a Class 1 power. Thayer already owns a win over Dora, holding the Falcons – who average 65 points per game – to just 40. Junior Ayden Stone has been a grown man for Thayer, averaging 12.9 points and 11.3 rebounds with five double-doubles, including a 20-20 game against Doniphan. Seniors Jalen Andrews, Dagen Jones and Kobe Meyer provide perimeter scoring and balance. The Bobcats play a style of basketball that travels well, particularly when you’re looking at playing several games back-to-back.
Class 1 state championship contenders Dora, Eminence on collision course
I’m going to Cabool for semifinal night, almost for the sole purpose of seeing the potential Dora vs. Eminence matchup. From an entertainment standpoint, it’ll be worth the price of admission. Both teams love to pressure, get in transition and play at a high tempo. Dora is guard dominant, with freshmen playing major roles. Eminence has a roster full of guys that have played for district championships and Final Four berths and, while the Redwings have great guard play, they also have one of the best bigs in the area in 6-foot-5 junior Trent McBride. This could be the first of three meetings.
Dora’s resume is extremely impressive. Two losses to Class 3 No. 4 Mountain Grove and Class 2 No. 4 Thayer are nothing to be ashamed about, especially because of how competitive they were in each game. Furthermore, those are the only two teams that have been able to contain freshman guard Isaac Haney. This is a name you’re going to hear a lot of. The 5-foot-10 bucket is averaging 21 points with a Steph Curry-like 56-47-90 field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage split. Then there’s the Luna triplets, who are also freshman sensations. Bryson scores (15.3 points, five rebounds), Mason defends (10.4 points, 4.1 steals) and Auston does whatever he wants (six points, seven rebounds, 3.4 assists). We’ve been hearing about this group since they were in elementary, they’ve exceeding the hype.
Eminence has won four straight since that loss to Advance to open the season. Advance is ranked No. 1 in Class 1 and their lone loss came to Class 2 No. 3 Oran… who is also the reigning Class 2 state champ. McBride is averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds and senior point guard Ethan Drake (17 points, four assists) is shooting 48% from deep which helps keep defenses balanced. The key to Eminence is just how well the Dyer twins have played. Their ability to attack the rim and defend multiple positions makes Eminence so much more dynamic. They also bring some attitude and toughness. The Wings have already beaten Class 3 Clever and drilled a solid Class 2 Blue Eye team. The Cabool Tournament could see them matchup with Plato, Dora and Thayer on consecutive days. Brutal.
Licking, MV-BT/Liberty intriguing 4-5 matchup
Each year these two and Mountain Grove the best Class 3 teams in the eastern part of the Ozarks and this season is no exception despite both squads being hit hard by graduation. This game also offers one of the best player matchups in the entire field should GT Nicholson and Shalin Stout meet in the semifinals.
Licking opened the season with a loss to Eugene, since then they’ve won eight straight with Nicholson increasingly coming into his own. They call the 6-foot-7 junior “Slim Reaper” which is fine considering he just dropped 34 points on Tuesday against Stoutland. He has a big frame but he’s extremely versatile which makes him a matchup nightmare. The Wildcats have also tightened up defensively, allowing fewer than 50 points to four of their last five opponents
MV-BT/Liberty has had three coaches in the last three seasons, which is less than ideal when you’re trying to learn a system, but the Eagles still have some horses. Stout, a 6-foot-8 senior, has been everything first-year head coach Brock Kenaga has needed him to be (14 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.1 blocks). He leads five players averaging at least nine points per game. Liberty is rare in that they have personnel that allow them to go really big or really small and still be effective.
Sleepers, bucket-getters and more…
Matt Powell has Gainesville rolling
The former Rogersville star is proving that he’s as good of a coach as he was player. Gainesville started the season 5-0 and while they’ve lost three of their last four, the Ls have come at the hands of state-ranked Mansfield, Thayer and Mountain Grove. The Bulldogs have been great defensively, holding six of nine opponents to 45 points or less. Gainesville played Thayer last week, losing by eight in a defensive struggle, 35-27. It’s not far-fetched for this team to pull off an upset.
Plato, Grady Todd could be a problem
Grady Todd isn’t huge, but that doesn’t keep him from playing big. Generously listed at 6-foot-3, the sophomore forward is averaging 19.8 points, 8.8 rebound and 2.8 blocks through his first five games, which includes a 34-13 explosion against Dixon. Even on an off night he went for an 11-11 double-double against Licking. Todd matchup up with McBride should be fun. The Eagles have won four of their last five entering the tournament.
Drew Clary, Alton
The 5-foot-10 sophomore has been one of the most explosive scorers in the state. Clary is averaging 24.3 points with three 30-point games already. However, he’s already seen his first-round opponent Liberty. The Eagles held Clary to a season-low four points. However, not many teams can throw as many athletes at a scorer as Liberty can. Clary could have a big week if he gets going.