SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The O-Zone Power Rankings are compiled by the staff each week based on a team's relative dominance by class. The schools are not compared head to head, but rather by how strong they are against similar competition as well as current momentum.
1. Strafford, 23-4 (2) – The Indians are all of the sudden the hottest team in the area with nine straight wins, all by at least nine points. They took care of Mid-Lakes rival Fair Grove Saturday to capture a third straight district championship. Even better news, the Indians won’t have to face Mt. Vernon this year in sectionals, but will certainly have a tough task against Seneca Wednesday night at BBC.
2. Nixa, 21-5 (3) – After a rivalry loss at Ozark the Tigers have ripped off three straight wins and are getting healthier with the much needed return of sophomore forward Jacob Ruder. The Eagles entered the season as the number one ranked team in class 5 and while they’ve lost some of that statewide luster Coach Osborne’s crew has plenty of fire power to make a return to Columbia. Step one, district semifinals Thursday night against the Ozark/Glendale winner.
3. Hillcrest, 20-5 (5) – The Hornets are on another patented post-T of C run. Coach Schaefer’s (also named Tip-Off Club Coach of the Year) team is putting it all together at the right time, including a comeback road win over Kickapoo for the outright Ozark Conference title. HHS should be the heavy favorite to take home the class 4 district 10 tournament in Marshfield, but don’t sleep on the host Jays or the Bolivar Liberators.
4. Republic, 22-4 (7) – After a pair of COC Large losses the Tiger’s closed out the regular season with three straight wins. RepMo is a heavy favorite to win the class 4 district 11 tournament, but don’t expect any overconfidence after not only falling to second seed Rogersville earlier this season, but also falling to the Wildcats in the semifinals of last year’s district tournament at Republic.
5. Fair Play, 21-3 (9) – The Hornets certainly got their payback in Saturday’s district championship with a 76-56 blasting of Everton, after falling to them by a single point less than a month before. Lance Schaffer scored 33 points in the win and has become a force to be reckoned with in class 1. The Hornets won’t travel far for sectionals Tuesday night at SBU as they face 18-10 Macks Creek.
6. Crane, 22-5 (11) – Dale Lamberth already has a district championship in his first season as the Pirates’ head coach and the second for Crane in three seasons. Crane bounced back from a regular season loss to beat Billings 72-68 Friday night in Spokane. Jordan Bowling led the way with 24 points, but it was Zach Chastain’s last minute three-pointer that proved to be the difference. A shot Chastain told Coach Lamberth he wanted. Next up, Crane faces Pierce City in the class 2 sectionals Wednesday night at Republic High School.
7. Kickapoo, 18-6 (6) – The Chiefs couldn’t hold off Hillcrest last Tuesday night in a game for the Ozark Conference title, but are still playing some solid ball heading into the postseason. Senior forward Chris Ward has become a huge force in the paint, while fellow senior Tyler Bussell is the gritty gutsy guard that every coach dreams of. The Chiefs jump right into the fire with a class 5 district 11 semifinal meeting with the host Branson Pirates Thursday night.
8. Branson, 19-7 (8) – After already locking up the COC Large title the Pirates limped into the playoffs with a 59-48 loss at Republic. The loss snapped a seven game winning streak for first year head coach Brian McTague. Despite that, the Pirates, led by senior sharp-shooter Thatch Unruh are a scary opposition as they host class 5 district 11, opening with Kickapoo Thursday night.
9. Billings, 22-5 (1) – The state repeat quest came to an end Friday night as SWCL rival Crane got its payback in a 72-68 district championship thriller. Repeating is one of the hardest things in sports and the Wildcats got a full taste of what it’s like to have the target on your back this season. Congrats to the Wildcats and their very talented senior class on a great 22-5 season.
10. Mt Vernon, 22-7 (4) – Another 2012 Final Four team falls. The Mountaineer’s fell victim to Seneca 51-47 in overtime of Saturday’s district championship in Seneca. Coach Brock says farewell to some solid seniors, including three-sport star Shane Williams, but brings back a solid nucleus for next season.
11. Parkview, 21-5 (10) – Don’t tell Coach Bill Brown the Vikings have lost their magic. The veteran bench boss believes his team is more than ready for district play and is showing it with five straight wins entering the playoffs. The Vikings, led by the senior trio of Erik Durham, Nathan Reichert and A.J. Green will host the class 5 district 12 tournament and open with Central, who they just beat by 25, Tuesday night.
12. Hartville, 23-4 (12) – The Eagles ran the class 3 district 10 gauntlet with wins over Willow Springs, Alton and Licking. Now it’s right back into the fire with sectionals Wednesday night in Rolla against 26-1 Fatima.
13. Eminence, 23-5 (14) – The Redwings have won seven straight games, including a district championship triumph over South Iron. Next up, a class 1 sectional meeting with 16-13 Hurley at Cabool High School Tuesday night.
14. Willard, 16-8 (NR) – The record doesn’t show it, but the Tigers are coming together at the right time and with 6’4” junior guard Chris Kendrix leading the way, they become a scary foe from here on out, nearly knocking off Nixa last week. The Tiger’s will face Joplin in the class 5 district 12 semifinals Tuesday night before a likely championship showdown with host Parkview. The Vikings beat Willard 54-41 at Willard all the way back on December 4TH.
15. Seneca, 21-7 (NR) – The Indians jump in this week after a 51-47 overtime giant killing win over Mt. Vernon, a team they fell to 66-62 during the regular season. It was an especially satisfying win considering the ‘Neers had ended Seneca’s season the previous three seasons. Big 8 Player of the Year Kyle Ng led the way with 15 points. Next up, a class 3 sectional meeting with Strafford Wednesday night at BBC.
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