What are the key things to follow in the Class 3 girls basketball playoffs? Find your answers below.
Strafford girls good as gold?
Everyone is still chasing Strafford, which has been the case for the last two seasons and won’t change next year either. The Lady Indians have beaten everyone in front of them, literally, winning 75 straight games. Also, just to clarify, beating them during the summer – which Skyline has done once in the past – does not count against their streak. At this point, their greatness has earned them the same respect the UCONN Women get, so it seems like people are rooting for them to lose instead of embracing just how historic what they’re doing is. Which is fine, it’s not going to stop them. One day we’ll talk about this Strafford team in the same light that older generations talk about that Marshfield dynasty, with the one difference being Strafford’s story is still unwritten. Four straight state championships with a 100-plus game winning streak would be nationally historic. And here’s why it could happen…
Without overwhelming you with numbers, the Lady Indians have four players averaging double figures. As much as you want to say it’s just the Hayley Frank show, it’s not. Yes, Frank is averaging 26 PPG, 14 RPG, seven APG and 3.5 BPG with nine triple-doubles. She’s also shooting 78 percent from the field, 51 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the foul line. But, Strafford also has a pair of 1,000-point scorers in senior Drury commit Zoey Mullings and junior Madison Chittenden. Kayley Frank is also rapidly approaching the number. Keep in mind, because of margin they rarely play a full game’s worth of minutes. Strafford is unique in that they’ve committed to selfless basketball, which is why their team defense is unreal and the extra pass always gets made. You can dislike them for the streak but respect them for the beautiful brand of basketball they play.
They’ve won 37 of their last 39 home games dating back to 2014 and they host the district. There’s no doubt in my mind that Clever and Fair Grove would play for a championship in any other Class 3 district in Missouri, but they have the unfortunate luck of playing each other in the District 11 semifinals. Strafford beat Clever by 26 and Fair Grove by 47. Mount Vernon is also in that conversation as yet another team that could win a state championship if Strafford didn’t exist.
Again, appreciate what they’re doing in the moment. It’s truly a spectacle.
Somehow, Mount Vernon is sliding beneath the radar
Well, the state polls have been a joke all season and the fact that Mount Vernon is ranked No. 10 in Class 3 is an illustration of that. The Lady ‘Neers have won 16 straight entering district play. Their only losses are Strafford and Fair Grove, however they beat Clever twice, Class y Kickapoo and Class 4 Webb City… who beat Fair Grove. Their resume speaks for itself and they host District 12 and have the advantage of having an unblemished record against everyone else in the district. Dusty Killingsworth has one of the most balanced teams you’ll find with four kids averaging double figures in Caitlin Hicks (17.2 PPG), Cameron Call (14.7 PPG), Lacy Stokes (13.6 PPG) and Camryn Eldridge (10.8 PPG). If they were in Class 4 they’d made a Final Four run without question. Last year Mount Vernon gave Strafford one of its best games.
Licking looking for fifth district title under Rissler
Steven Rissler has done nothing but win games at Licking at this year has been no exception. The Lady Wildcats have two losses which came in a two-day span to Class 5 Waynesville and Class 4 Rolla. Outside of that they’ve been untouchable, winning 17 games by double figures. Sophomore point guard Karlee Holland (20.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 4.3 SPG) is an absolute stud. But seniors Dalrayn Feringa (9.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG) is finally healthy and McKenzie Cook (7.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG) help with scoring and 5-foot-11 sophomore Abby Moncrief give Licking a post presence. Licking went unbeaten against the rest of the district, including a win at 2-seed MV-BT/Liberty. They haven’t seen the schedule that some of the other elite Class 3 teams have, but this group could very well end up at Drury in the Elite Eight.
Clever ready for a run?
Dan Jones has to be proud of his group. Without a single senior on the roster, Clever has managed to win games against West Plains, Bolivar, Memphis White Station, Branson, Fair Grove, Skyline and Blue Eye. This is also a group that nearly knocked off Arkansas power Fayetteville. Harper Little (17.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 5.3 SPG, 2.8 BPG). No, that stat line was not a misprint, she’s just a freak of nature. She’s had two triple-doubles this season and is already over 1,000 career points. She makes Clever go, but has plenty of help. Sophomore Ally Clevenger (15.4 PPG, 3.4 APG) is shooting 47 percent from 3 and 85 percent from the foul line. Clever is 8-1 when she scores at least 17 points. Junior Abi Menzies (12.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.3 BPG) has posted five double-doubles, including 22 points and 14 rebounds against Skyline. Clever is built to win next year, but so is Strafford, Fair Grove and Mount Vernon. The Lady Jays have proven they might be the best-equipped to shock Strafford.
Fair Grove led by twin towers
Fair Grove’s resume is about as impressive as it gets. The Lady Eagles have wins over Rogersville, Clever, Mount Vernon, Camdenton, Republic, Blue Eye and Cassville. Four of their six losses came to Mid-Lakes rivals Skyline and Strafford. Fair Grove is unique in that juniors Alana Findley (23.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.9 SPG, 1.4 BPG) and Harley Maxwell (17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG) are about as good of a post tandem that you’ll find, regardless of class. Findley is nearing the 1,500-point mark and approaching 1,000 rebounds as well. She’s receiving interest from various D-1 and D-2 programs and the lefty has had 17 double-doubles and a triple-double this season; 12 of those have been 20-10 games. Good luck finding someone that plays with more energy and effort than Findley.
At 6-foot-2 with great footwork and a soft touch, Maxwell will have a chance to be one of the most sought-after unsigned prospects in the area over the summer and into next year. Her numbers speak for themselves, but Maxwell’s commitment to remaining in great shape and improving her game has made her dominant. She was averaging 23.6 PPG and 10.9 RPG in her seven games prior to Strafford.
It’ll be a tough task for anyone to knock off Strafford, but Findley and Maxwell give Fair Grove as good of a shot as anyone in Class 3. One fact is certain, they’re the best 3-seed in Missouri.
The Piper Francis Effect
The junior Wichita State commit is one of the most gifted scorers in Missouri, regardless of class. Francis is just a bucket. She’s averaging 25.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG and 2.6 SPG and has scored nearly 1,900 points in three seasons. But, this might be MV-BT/Liberty’s best shot at winning a district championship in the last three years. They’ve already tied the school-record for wins (18). Classmate Kamryn Gastineau (9.5 PPG, 8 RPG) gives them someone to clean the class and senior twins Madison and Marissa Berry can shoot it from deep. The Lady Eagles have won five out of six entering district play and continue to grow in Year One under Eli Ernst. The team is also 11-1 when Francis scores at least 25 points. If she gets going watch out.
Katelyn Mooney & Darrah Bartlett, Lamar
It’s hard to mention one without the other because they’ve been synonymous with the success of each other and Lamar Athletics over the last four years. In volleyball, Bartlett set for Mooney and both were insanely good. Now, it’s been Bartlett (10 PPG, 3.5 APG) assisting on Mooney’s monster season (16 PPG, 10 RPG). Junior guard Hallee Doss (8.5 PPG, 2.8 APG) has also been solid for Lamar alum Mandy Moyer. The Lady Tigers have wins over Class 5 Carthage and Joplin and gave Bolivar everything it wanted in the Pink and White Lady Classic. Lamar is the 2-seed in District 12, where it’ll probably be a rematch of last year’s district championship showdown with rival Mount Vernon.
Joelle Atkins, Cabool
The 6-foot senior has put together a monster, record-breaking senior season. She’s averaging 12.5 PPG, 12.3 RPG and 5.9 BPG. She set Cabool’s block record last year at 69 and could end up doubling it by the time the season is over. Atkins has had 11 double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles. Coach Rance Beller also has talent around her with sophomore guard Katlynn Ellison (18.7 PPG, 3.4 SPG) being a scoring machine and senior Kaitlen Beller (11.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG) providing a third scoring option.