District 10 Favorite – Marshfield: The favorite here is a tough call. Because Marshfield is the host, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. The Lady Jays have been hot as of late, winning seven of their last eight heading into district play. Marshfield also has the ultimate ex-factor in guard Lauren Aldridge. The Kansas commit seems completely healed from an early season foot injury that led to Marshfield stumbling to a 3-7 start. Marshfield easily played the districts toughest schedule, falling in close games to Republic, West Plains, and Branson.
Darkhorse – Hillcrest: Like Marshfield, Hillcrest has also won seven of its last eight, including wins over Ozark Conference foes Camdenton and Waynesville. Sophomore guard Kelsie Cleeton and junior wing Brittany Fisher are one of the area’s top scoring duos and are extremely tough to stop once they get going. Kristin Todd inside will be key if the Lady Hornets are to make a run for a district title.
Player to Watch – Shelby Roberts, Bolivar: Bolivar has won 17 games entering district play and a large part of that is because of the Roberts. The scrappy junior guard gets it done in a variety ways, and on both ends of the floor. Her defensive intensity has proven to be a starter this season for Bolivar. However, it’s her offensive production that will be the difference maker for Darin Archer’s squad if they want to win another district title.
District 11 Favorite – Republic: The Republic Lady Tigers have been the area’s top team for much of the season. The defending Class 4 state champs are deep, experienced, and talented. Guards Alice Heinzler and Alex Botkin are arguably the most complete backcourt tandem in the area. Tough nosed Sarah Kreul (literally) is extremely versatile in the post, and is a tough matchup despite being undersized. The Lady Tigers also played one of the toughest schedules in the area, seeking out and beating state-ranked teams such as Sullivan, Westminster, and Dexter. The potential district championship meeting with West Plains offers the most anticipated title game in the area on the girl’s side.
Darkhorse – West Plains: I’m not sure if they can truly be considered a Darkhorse since they are one of the top teams in the state, nevertheless, the Lady Zizzers are the only alternative to Republic in taking Class 4 – District 11 honors. West Plains is led by all-time leading scorer and all everything guard Andi Haney, who may be the area’s most relentless scorer. She shoots it extremely well, but her ability to get to the basket and draw fouls puts pressure on opposing defenders. Since losing to Ash Grove in the quarterfinals of the PWLC, West Plains hasn’t had an opponent within 10 points at the final horn.
Player to Watch – Cassidy Johnson, West Plains: If you think Haney is the only scoring threat for the Lady Zizzers, you’re wrong. Johnson can shoot it from deep with the best of ‘em (40% from 3) and is capable of hitting them in bunches, just ask anyone from Fair Grove. If West Plains is to avenge last year’s district disappointment Johnson will have to help keep defenses from collapsing on Haney.
District 12 Favorite – Webb City: The Lady Cards were a perfect 7-0 against district foes, winning by an average of 20 points per contest. Webb City guard Mikaela Burgess (16 PPG) can really fill it up, and has gotten plenty of help inside from 6-foot-2 classmate Casey Heger (12 PPG, 8 RPG) and sophomore 6-footer Desirea Buerge (13 PPG, 7 RPG). The last time Brad Shorter had this much talent and size he spent Mid-March in Columbia.
Darkhorse – Carthage: The Lady Tigers haven’t put a stretch of consistent basketball together since starting the season 10-1. Although they’ve had some quality wins since then (Branson, Blue Valley Southwest (Kan.)), Carthage also has some less than impressive losses (Nevada (twice) and Pierce City. If the Carthage team that gave Webb City a run for their money back in December reemerges, Saturday’s championship could be a good one.
Player to Watch – Desirea Buerge, Webb City: If the name sounds familiar, it should. Her brother, Desmond, was an all-state player at Carthage and currently a starter for Missouri State-West Plains. Like her brother, Desirea is long, athletic, and an opposing coach’s nightmare. The sophomore is also hot as of late, averaging 18 a night in her last five games. She will need to continue that production if Webb City is to make another Final Four run.
District 9 Favorite – Columbia Rock Bridge: Picking a favorite here is like deciding between 5 Guys and McDonald’s. Rock Bridge has played one of the state’s toughest schedules, seeking out and beating the best teams all across the Midwest. Also, it helps when you have seven (Yes, I said 7) players on your team receiving D-1 interest, headlined by sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham who is currently the No.3 guard in the country according to ESPN.com.
Darkhorse – Columbia Hickman: Led by SEMO signee Jade Holly, the Kewpies are easily the second most talented team in the district. However, they were beaten by 46-34 by Rock Bridge in January. It isn’t likely that anyone but Rock Bridge advances from this district.
Player to Watch – Whitney Snow, Camdenton: If Snow ever wanted an opportunity to put herself on the map, she has it now. Her young Lady Lakers squad has matured quickly during the season and has proven the ability to play with anyone, and Snow has been a huge piece of the pie. The junior, who scored her 1,000th point in late January, can play with the best of them. Her matchup with Hickman’s Jade Holly could not only see her team pull an upset, but also put her on the Division One radar.
District 10 Championship Preview: On Thursday Waynesville and Washington will square off for the Class 5 – District 10 championship. Waynesville has played a far superior schedule, but Washington has won five of its last six games. The game being played at Rolla offers no advantage to either team. If top seed Waynesville is to advance, they will need a big effort from standout junior Hannah Bland.
District 11 Favorite – Ozark: The Lady Tigers are deep, talented, and battle tested. Ozark owns wins over Republic, Nixa, and St. Joe’s Benton. Had it not been for a scoring explosion by Rutgers signee Tyler Scaife, Ozark would have upset nationally ranked Little Rock-Hall in the title game of the PWLC. The Lady Tigers also played state-ranked Parkway South, Rock Bridge, and Blue Springs. Led by senior UTSA signee Haylee Beard and junior Hannah Cook, Ozark has the firepower to beat anyone on a given night. Ozark is still yet to lose to a team with 150 miles of Springfield.
Darkhorse – Nixa: The Lady Eagles are the easy alternative to Ozark. Nixa is just four years removed from a state championship team, and this is the best squad Coach Middleton has had since then. Great guard play (Jeanna Raper and Toshua Leavitt) and a tough schedule should push Nixa through to the championship game.
Player to Watch – Toshua Leavitt, Nixa: Leavitt is the area’s most talented guard. Her handle, vision, and ability to shoot it (5 treys last week against Ozark) has many D-1 programs on notice. However, at times maturity issues limit her from consistently being the type of player she is capable of. A Nixa district championship will be the result of a big game from the sophomore guard.
District 12 Championship preview: It will be the second time this season that Willard and Parkview have matched up. The first saw the Lady Vikings end Willard’s tournament in the White Division of the PWLC. The Lady Tigers are hoping the rematch will end the Parkview’s season. However, that is a tall order. Although Willard has the size upfront to make it tough for all-state forward Aubrey Buckley, the Lady Vikings quickness on the perimeter (Kianna McDaniel and Tyra Moore get up the court in a hurry) will be enough to speed up the Lady Tigers and create turnovers. Also, stopping Buckley is much easier said than done. Parkview gets the W at home.
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