By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
This week’s Girls Basketball Power Rankings are here. See the Top 15 below.
NOTE: THESE RANKINGS ARE BASED OFF OF DOMINANCE WITHIN EACH TEAM’S CLASS, NOT STRICTLY HEAD-TO-HEAD.
1. (1) Strafford (C3: 24-0)
They’re the No. 1 team in Missouri according to USA Today’s Super 25 Computer Rankings and No. 33 in the nation according to the same poll. Their win streak is up to 73 games with Pleasant Hope and Fair Grove on the schedule this week to try to change all that. Again, I’m running out of things to say because their dominance is like nothing we’ve seen in decades. Strafford is the modern-day UCLA and Hayley Frank is Lew Alcindor. Class 3 is especially loaded in the Ozarks, but Strafford is the cream of the crop.
2. (2) Walnut Grove (C1: 21-2)
Rory Henry is back at it again with yet another group that seems destined for a Final Four run. Walnut Grove has two losses this year – Class 3 Strafford and Class 4 St. Joseph Benton – and both teams were undefeated at the time of the game or are still undefeated. Grove has blasted every Class 1 team they’ve seen, while also beating other state-ranked teams like Hartville, Fordland, Mid-Buchanan and even Ozark. They carry a five-game winning streak into a hellacious finish to the season with Fair Play, Skyline and Fordland.
3. (3) Skyline (C2: 21-2)
There may be no such thing as a good loss, but some are more beneficial than others and Skyline’s loss to Clever may be bad news for everyone else in Class 2. Since then, the Lady Tigers have bounced Class 3 Fair Grove (18-5), Class 3 Boonville (19-3) and Class 4 Osage (18-5). There’s no shame in losing to a pair of elite teams in a bigger class. Closing the season with trips to Walnut Grove and Pleasant Hope will be fun.
4. (4) Thayer (C2: 20-0)
Twenty up and 20 down at this point and it seems like the Lady Bobcats will enter the postseason undefeated. The showdown with Licking was cancelled due to inclement weather and now all that stand between Thayer and another SCA title are a trip to Willow Springs and entertaining rival Houston.
5. (8) Kickapoo (C5: 20-3)
Kickapoo has won seven straight games since losing to Ozark in the Webb City Tournament. Here’s the crazy part, despite the losses from last season the Lady Chiefs three losses have come 10 points or fewer. Beating Parkview, Glendale and Joplin last week kept them on track to win the Ozark Conference again. But, they’ll have to beat Rolla and Waynesville to make that happen. The Poo will close to the season with a trip to Columbia Hickman.
6. (5) Mount Vernon (C3: 23-2)
Just like last year, Mount Vernon is ending the season the right way. The Lady ‘Neers have won 15 straight entering the regular season finale against McDonald County, which will wrap up back-to-back undefeated Big 8 championships. Mount Vernon hasn’t had anyone stay within 10 points of them since Jan. 20, a 53-50 win over Clever. The only reason they’re not ranked higher is because Strafford is that much better than everyone else in Class 3. If you were to put Mount Vernon in Class 4 they’d be a Final Four team.
7. (6) Carl Junction (C4: 17-3)
The Lady Bulldogs have three losses, two of which have come in conference play. That let’s you know just how tough the COC Large is. The Ozark loss was Carl Junction’s first L at home since 2014, a span of more than 30 games. CJ did beat Class 5 Willard and Nixa since the last rankings were released and is still the team to beat in Class 4.
8. (9) Blue Eye (C2: 21-4)
Blue Eye clinched a 20-win season with wins over Sparta, Crane and Billings last week, which also put them in position to play for an SWCL title on Monday against Clever. The Lady Bulldogs have won seven straight and six of those have been routs. Defensively, there aren’t many teams that can pressure the way Ken Elfrink’s group can. Their path to a district title is helped by the fact that they host District 11.
9. (11) Fair Grove
The Lady Eagles are just 4-3 in their last seven games, but considering the losses were to Skyline twice (by a combined 11 points) and Clever it’s easy to overlook them. The Clever loss was just by one point and revenge for an early Grove win in December. Fair Grove did beat a really good Class 4 Cassville team on the road last week. They close the season with Stockton and rival Strafford, the first of what could be two meetings this month.
10. (7) Clever (C3: 17-6)
The Strafford loss wouldn’t be a big deal, if Clever was in a different district or class. Regardless, the Lady Jays might be the best team in Class 3 besides Strafford and their body of work is nothing short of impressive. Closing the season with trips to Blue Eye and Billings, before hosting Forsyth could land Clever the SWCL crown.
11. (14) Hartville (C2: 20-3)
Nine straight wins has Hartville squarely in the Class 2 conversation, especially with how good they’ve been offensively. The Lady Eagles have dropped at least 60 in seven of those nine games, which includes a win over Fordland. All three of their losses have come on neutral floors, one was against an out of state team, one was to a Class 5 program and the other was Walnut Grove. Hartville can wrap up the Summit championship with wins over Conway and Mansfield this week.
12. (12) Licking (C3: 20-2)
The state polls love them. They’re undefeated so far in 2018 with 10 straight wins. Just one team has managed more than 50 points against them during that stretch. The Lady Wildcats have yet another 20-win season, their fifth in six seasons under Steven Rissler. This is yet another loaded Class 3 team in the Ozarks.
13. (NR) Lockwood (C2: 19-3)
Lockwood has won four straight since that loss to Gainesville. They’re undefeated at home this season, which is a good sign as they look to wrap up an SRVC championship this week at home against Liberal and Jasper. In the last two weeks they’ve knocked off SRVC powers Sarcoxie, Pierce City and Miller. This is a sleeper team to make a Final Four run.
14. (13) Waynesville (C5: 18-3)
A road loss to rival Camdenton snapped what had been a 15-game winning streak. That loss may have pushed the Lady Tigers to the No. 2 seed, making them one of the most accomplished teams in Missouri on the 2-line. Waynesville bounced back with a win over West Plains and has a titanic road matchup with Kickapoo for the Ozark Conference title sandwiched between Parkview and Joplin games.
15. (NR) Rogersville (C4: 16-7)
Wins in six straight games has the Lady Cats back on track. Entering the season this seemed like a Final Four darkhorse and following wins over Bolivar, Catholic and Webb City, Coach McHenry might have refocused a talented group. And, looking back at their losses, there’s nothing wrong with losing to Strafford twice, Skyline, Fair Grove, West Plains, Willard and Walnut Grove. In fact, five of those seven were by 10 points or fewer.
Knockin’ on the Door: Hermitage (C1: 20-3), Bradleyville (C1: 18-4), Camdenton (C5: 15-6), Ozark (C5: 14-8), Nixa (C5: 16-8), Neosho (C5: 15-6), Fordland (C2: 19-5), Sarcoxie (C2: 17-4), Cassville (C4: 18-4), Wheatland (C1: 18-4), Pierce City (C2: 17-6)