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Favorite: The favorite here is a little hard to decipher. While Parkview is the top seed and unbeaten, Republic has played a more challenging schedule. I’ll give the slight edge to the Vikings though. This isn’t Bill Brown’s first rodeo. His team has taken the typical Parkview identity of taking care of the ball and locking up defensively. This year however there is one wrinkle in the form of 6’3” senior guard Erik Durham. Durham has been the area’s most impressive player to this point in the season. His ability to get to the rim at will coupled with his pure shoot stroke make him a defensive nightmare. The Vikings are also getting key contributions inside from senior Nathan Reichart. If A.J. Green continues to develop his game along with the help of junior Darris Perry and sophomore Autry Acord, the Vikings should have little trouble finding their way to the title game.
Darkhorse: Willard – The Tigers are definitely a team to keep an eye on in the Gold Division. Their ability to pressure and turn teams over defensively always has the possibility of being a game-changer. Year one under former Missouri Tiger standout Lamont Frazier has been a successful thus far, with his team progressing more each day. Willard also boasts one of the area’s most talented athletes in junior Chris Kendrix. The do-everything forward average nearly 20 points and eight boards a game last year. Although his scoring numbers are down this year, his impact on the game is not. If he can stay out of foul trouble and Tigers continue to take care of the ball they will be a tough out for anyone.
Match-up I most want to see: Republic v. Parkview – Unfortunately, these two state-ranked powers will not meet during the regular season, so this would be the only opportunity to see this match-up. Republic has been off to a great start under first year head coach Trevyor Fisher. As expected, the Tigers have gotten great play inside from seniors Marcus Miller and Grant Hancock, as well as a huge scoring boost from junior Cody Geiger. What comes as more of a surprise has been the stellar guard play of the Republic crew. Jake Fletcher and Dylan Bekemeier have done a tremendous job of getting the big guys the ball in a position for them to be successful, as well as looking for their own offense when the team needs it. A Republic/Parkview matchup wouldn’t happen until the championship, but would be well worth the wait.
Team that should be on upset alert: Clever – I don’t see any seeded teams falling in the first round, however if I had to pick one I would go with Clever. I love what Luke Brosius has been able to do with the ultra-talented Blue Jays in year one. The one glaring omission from Clever’s roster is size, something that Reeds Spring has plenty of. Senior Austin Selby boasts big numbers to go along with his 6’6” frame. Last year Selby averaged a 17 and 10 double-double to go along with three blocks en route to capturing all-conference honors and grabbing some D-1 attention. If Reeds Spring can handle Clever’s pressure defense and get Selby plenty of touches inside, the Wolves just may have enough to get into the quarterfinals.
A name you’ll know after this week: Dalton Fisher, Clever – Fisher has been one of the area’s best kept secrets, but with all the eyes on the Blue and Gold Tournament that will likely change. Fisher is one of the most complete guards in the area. On the season, Fisher is averaging 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists. He is also is getting nearly three steals a game. He can shoot it with the best of them; 43% from 3 and 80% from the line. But it is his intangibles – his competiveness and toughness – that make him so valuable to Clever. Against Scott County Central, four time defending Class 1 state champion, Fisher flirted with a quadruple-double in his team’s 75-48 win. The 5’10” guard stuffed the stat sheet, finishing the game 13 points, eight rebounds, seven steals, and six assists.