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Districts 3 & 4: Eminence continued its stellar season, topping South Iron for the second straight season in the district final. The Red Wings will now await the winner of the District 4 championship between Hurley and Verona. Hurley has won five of its last six and beat the Wildcats last month 61-47. I see Hurley advancing to play Eminence, setting up a sectional rematch from last year that saw the Tigers fall 61-58.
Districts 5: District 5 promises to have one of the area’s more entertaining championship games if seeds hold true. Fair Play and Everton have each scored 80-plus points at least eight times this year, including a trio of 90-plus performances by the Tigers. While Fair Play boasts one of the area’s best scorers in 6-foot-3 senior Lance Schaffer, who goes for 40 about as often as Dwight Howard requests a trade, Everton does it with a more balanced attack. Cody Brewer and Dave Allen each get about 20 a night, but the high powered Tigers offense is keyed by one of the area’s best point guards in Logan Brown (13 points 10 assists per). Although the two teams split a pair of regular season meetings, look for Everton to advance.
District 6: If you like good big men, you might want to head out to Bolivar on Saturday to see how this one plays out. Both Macks Creek and Humansville boast a pair of double-double machine’s in Cody Eidson and Stoan Spicher respectively. Eidson, a sophomore from Macks Creek, owns 16 double-doubles on the season including a 42-20 game against Fair Play and a 18-12-10 (points-blocks-rebounds) triple-double against Halfway. Spicher has been as equally as impressive in his final campaign for Humansville. The 6-foot-3 forward has 10 double-doubles for the Tigers and has scored in double figures in all but two games this season. The two teams met back in December in a game that was decided by a last second Macks Creek trey. The championship should be as equally good, but I think Macks Creek takes it.
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District 10: This is one of the more intriguing districts in the area. Although Mansfield is the top seed, fellow semifinalist Dora, Gainesville and Fordland all boast more superior records. The Lions have limped into district play losers of three of their last four games. Although all four teams have dropped at least one game to a district opponent, I’m expecting a Mansfield vs. Fordland championship game, with the Eagles ultimately claiming the district title.
District 11: The defending Class 2 state champions, Billings, will have its hands full in Spokane Friday night. Crane, under first year head coach Dale Lamberth, is playing extremely well basketball and has a force inside in senior Jordan Bowling (18 points, 8 rebounds per game). Billings and its potent offensive attack paced by Austin Essick’s 20-11-6 a night numbers, routed Crane 84-53 just six weeks ago. Although I do expect this game to be much closer, the Wildcats offense should carry them to another district title.
District 12: The Final Four for District 12 is about as balanced as it gets. Purdy is the top seed, and deservedly so as the Eagles are unbeaten against the other semifinalist. A win over Miller will set up a rematch with the Pierce City/Greenfield winner. In either case, I expect Purdy to claim the district title.
District 13: One of just a few districts in which all four semifinalist have at least 18 wins, District 13 is shaping up for a great Friday-Saturday finish. Both semifinals are rematches as Skyline and Liberal won the inaugural contests. However, I think it’ll be a Skyline-Osceola championship, with the host Indians taking the district title on their home floor. If you haven’t heard of the Self quartet, you will soon.
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District 10: In terms of total wins, no district is tougher than District 10. Liberty (21), Licking (19), Hartville (21) and Alton (22) will play out what is likely the most competitive semifinal from top to bottom. The top seed Liberty was 3-1 against the remaining teams in the district, with the loss coming in its second game with Alton. The Liberty/Licking rematch should be a dandy, but if the Wildcats can’t slow down James Denton (25 points in the first meeting) the Eagles should have little trouble getting to the district final. On the other side, Hartville took the first meeting with Alton, 69-60. Part 2 will be a similar story, with the Eagles stealing it late. A championship that Glenn Frey would be proud to dub “The Battle of the Eagles”, I see Hartville stealing the rematch behind the dynamic duo of Seth Hensley and Shade Piper.
District 11: Springfield Catholic put the entire district on upset alert following its 61-51 upset of No. 2 seed Hollister. Although this is definitely Jacob Wade and top seed Strafford’s district to lose, don’t be surprised to see Fair Grove give the Indians way more than they want in Saturday’s final. Strafford won the regular season meeting between the two 59-48.
District 12: This is the district I am personally most excited to see. Big time players, big time coaches, and bad blood highlight the Final Four of District 12 hosted by Seneca. In one semifinal the Indians will host Luke Brosius and his Blue Jays. The guard matchup of Seneca’s Kyler Ng and Clever’s Dalton Fisher will be one to watch. Although the Indian’s won last year’s district matchup, the rematch goes to Clever. On the other sider there is a rematch between Mount Vernon and Ash Grove. The ‘Neers took the first game 41-38. Although I expect them to take the rematch as well, Ash Grove coach and former all-stater Jeremy Nicholson may have a few wrinkles up his sleeve, especially if he can get junior guard Cody Allhands going early. In the championship game I think Mount Vernon’s experience pushes them past the scrappy Blue Jays.
District 13: The Butler Bears are the top seed and clear favorite to take District 13. Their depth and ability to turnover opponents has led them to another 20 season. Despite losing to Warsaw on the road early in the season, don’t expect the same to happen in Butler. A team to keep an eye on is the Lamar Tigers. Much like football season, Lamar plays an extremely tough regular season schedule in preparation for district play.