Springfield, Mo. (OzarksSportsZone.com) -- Hillcrest, Republic and Carl Junction are the SW Missouri representatives left in Class 4 boys. See what they will have to do to advance to the quarterfinals.
How they will advance – Much has been made of the Hornets lack of size. Although that has been alleviated as of late with the play of Arkansas State football signee Jonah Hill, Hillcrest’s ability to turnover opponents has made up for any extra possessions they give up on the glass. Also, nearly every Hornet that steps on the court is a 3-point threat. For John Schaefer’s bunch to go to their third Final Four in the past four seasons, they will need to continue knock down shots.
Player to Watch – Jonah Hill: The importance of Hill can’t be overstated. Although he isn’t big by most standards (just 6-foot-3), his bulk and aggression has given opponents fits since he joined the team in January. Simply put, nobody in the area goes after the ball like Hill does. His rebounding and post defense is essential for a Hornet run.
How they will advance – Republic has made its living all year by clamping down defensively and valuing each possession. If teams can’t score, and you don’t give them extra possessions by allowing offensive rebounds and turning the ball over you will be tough to beat, as Republic has been all season. That will continue to hold true as the Tigers try to play their way to Columbia. In their sectional matchup with Carl Junction, who Republic beat 78-39 back in January, the Tigers will need to continue to be solid defensively.
Player to Watch – Dylan Bekemeier: The maturation of Bekemeier throughout the season has been fun to watch. He has gone from a traditional point guard that is solid defender and gets everyone involved offensively to the type of guard that can take over a game. Republic is good enough to win a state championship defensively, but at times they can have scoring droughts that are appalling (Blue and Gold title game). If Bekemeier can continue to look for his offense as well as get others involved Republic will be a tough out.
How they got here – Carl Junction is one of the more shocking teams in the Sectional round. The Bulldogs, who lost regular seasons matchups against Webb City and Carthage, came alive in district play upsetting both teams in overtime to take the Class 4 – District 12 title. The district championship is the first for the Bulldogs since 1957.
How they will advance – Carl Junction has a tall order in front of them in Sectionals. As mentioned, the Bulldogs were routed by Republic to the tune of 39 points just eight weeks ago. Typically, that would be enough to disqualify them from having a chance again the Tigers. However, it all comes down to which Bulldogs team gets off the bus in Ozark on Wednesday. Carl Junction has been hot and cold throughout the season, however revenge has been something they have been good at getting. For Carl Junction to win, the Bulldogs will need to amp up the pressure defensively to hopefully speed the Tigers up and turn them over. It is also important that they make a concerted effort to rebound, as the Tigers are much being at the interior possession. Lastly, high scoring guards Travis Vogt and Matt Magee must knock down shots.
Player to Watch – Travis Vogt: The 6-foot-2 guard is the best player you’ve never heard of. As a junior, the co-Big 8 Player of the Year averaged over 20 points a night for the Bulldogs. He is capable of filling it up and has never met a shot that he didn’t like. This year, Vogt hung 30 on the Carthage Tigers in the district championship among a handful of 30 point performances this season. The first-team All-Big 8 selection, who has received a few D-1 sniffs, will need a big time game to the Bulldogs into the quarterfinals.
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