The White Division is the most intriguing bracket of any holiday tournament in the area, boys or girls. Like the Pink side, the White field offers a pair defending state champions, a final four team, and an unbeaten Class 2 squad looking to make a name for itself. Not to mention a slew of state-ranked teams.
Favorite: DuPont Manual from Lexington, Ken. is the defending state champion. However, Kentucky doesn’t divide teams by size, so DuPont is the true state champion of Kentucky. The Lady Crimson return a pair of players in Kayla Styles (Xavier signee) and Destony Curry (Bellarmine signee) that will keep them in the hunt for another title this year. Republic also brings solid credentials to the tournament and because of both team’s experience and talent expect them to meet for the championship. But, don’t be surprised to see the Lady Tigers hoisting the championship trophy on Saturday. Republic brings an 11-game winning streak, dating back to last year, into the tournament. Coach Flood’s team also returns a ton of talent from last year’s state championship team, headlined by Alice Heinzler (C of O signee), Alex Botkin (SBU signee) and Sarah Kreul (C of O volleyball).
Darkhorse: Nixa is the logical pick as a darkhorse in the White Division. The Lady Eagles return much of last year’s 21-7 team, including All-COC guard Jeana Raper. Nixa enters the tournament with an 8-1 record, including wins over Webb City, Kickapoo and Parkview. The only blemish on Coach Middleton’s record was a loss to Blue Valley West (Kan.) in the first round of the Joplin Tournament. If Nixa continues to play well defensively (surrendering just 32 points per game) they have a chance to make a deep run.
Match-up I most want to see: Republic vs. Crane – Crane has had one of the area’s toughest nonconference schedules to start the season, but the Lady Pirates have been up to the challenge. Crane owns wins over Parkview, Rogersville and Marionville in a rematch of an earlier season game in which the Lady Comets won. Crane also lost a heartbreaker to Kickapoo in the Stephanie Phillips Classic by just four points. Although playing the defending Class 4 state champs would be a tall order, don’t expect Crane to back down. Senior Maggie McMenamy scored 32 points in the win over Parkview, and as the only senior on the roster has done a good job leading a young team. This potential match-up would be a battle of two defensively sound teams that do a great job of sharing the basketball.
Team that should be on upset alert: Branson – The Lady Pirates have a great team and return a ton of talent from last year’s team, but so does their first round opponent Parkview. The Lady Vikings also return the most talented player in the area in junior Aubrey Buckley. Buckley averaged 24 points and five rebounds per game last year en route to garnering all-state honors. If Parkview can limit its turnovers don’t be surprised to see them move on to the quarterfinals.
A name you’ll know after this week: Riley Israel, Crane – Crane is off to a great start this season and Israel is a large reason why. The junior guard is one of the area’s most tenacious perimeter defenders. Offensively she is gets her teammates the ball in a position to be successful and at a high rate. As a sophomore Israel dished out 138 assists (5.5 per game). However, what has taken her game to the next level this season is her ability to score. She had 18 points in the Lady Pirates 14 point win over Class 2 power Marionville.
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