Posted: Thursday, 21 March 2013 6:13PM

Final O-Zone Boys Basketball Power Rankings

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- For the past four months we’ve watched local boys basketball teams evolve, grow and for Eminence and Republic, become state champs.  Congrats to the Redwings and Tigers, and best of luck to all those seniors moving on to even bigger and better things.
To put a wrap on the Ozarks prep slate I’m putting pen to paper with the final O-Zone Power Rankings.  Some great teams fell early, while others that struggled during the regular season made deep runs into the playoffs.  That truly is the fun of “March Madness”, which I’m probably not allowed to say (don’t tell the NCAA).

Below is a list of the final rankings with their season record and average power ranking during the season in parenthesis.  Remember, the rankings are based on strength by class, not head to head.

  1. Republic (27-4; 3.5) – Despite being on the verge of elimination time and again, the Tigers kept their cool to capture the class 4 state championship; their first since 1963.  Size was RepMo’s calling card with a front line of Marcus Miller (6’7”), Grant Hancock (6’5”) and Cody Geiger (6’3”), but it was the guard play that came up HUGE in Columbia.  Fletcher, Abney, Bekemeier, Smith and company stepping up big.  Don’t expect a rebuild next season; more like a reload with several key players returning.
  2. Eminence (27-5; 13.2) – On the far east edge of our viewing area, I’ll be honest, the Redwings snuck up on me this season.   Coach Pete McBride’s club captured the class 1 state championship after knocking off perennial powers Scott County Central, Drexel and Stanberry for the crown.  Like Republic, the Redwings followed up their girls team winning state last year with a title of their own this season.  To steal a line from the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl win; Logan Dyer led the way, Jesse Lacey made the play and Cole Keeling saved the day.
  3. Kickapoo (22-7; 11.7) – The Chiefs came on strong late, winning 15 of their last 18 games on the way to nearly reaching the Show-Me Showdown.  Seniors Chris Ward and Tyler Bussell provided the spark and leadership to lead Poo to the verge, but it was a series of late miscues that proved costly in a quarterfinal loss to Hickman.  A slew of young and talented players return for Coach Rippee next season.  Those Chiefs will certainly have expectations as they return to the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions to represent Springfield.
  4. Strafford (24-5; 4.5) – The Indians were great down the stretch, but ran into a buzz saw in the quarterfinals against Fatima.  24-5 is nothing to scoff at, but expect even bigger and better things next season as Mike Wilson’s squad returns senior-to-be Jacob Wade and a very talented crop of juniors.
  5. Willard (18-9; 11.1) – As close as Kickapoo came to reaching the Final Four was as close as Willard came to beating Kickapoo in the sectionals.  A Jack Simpson free throw with .6 seconds left providing the difference.  Willard’s late run warranted a spot in next year’s Bass Pro Tournament of Champions.  The Tigers will miss Kolbe Kinghorn inside, but 6’4” guard Chris Kendrix along with a crop of feisty guards gives Lamont Frazier’s boys all the fire power they need for a big 2013-14 season.
  6. Hillcrest (22-6; 7.5) – The Hornets picked the wrong time to have a down day, falling to Borgia in the class 4 sectionals.  If not for that loss Hillcrest certainly had the talent to go toe-to-toe with Republic and the rest the state had to offer.  It will be tough to replace the leadership and ability of Austin Petry, Roy Hardy, Thomas Whitaker and eight seniors, but the cupboard is far from bare for Coach Schaefer.  Lightning fast guard Juwan Johnson returns among others ready to step up on the North Side.
  7. Fair Play (22-4; 8.1) – The Hornets were among the best class 1 teams in the state all season, but fell to top ranked Drexel in the quarterfinals, ending an otherwise solid campaign.  Senior Lance Shaffer, one of the state’s top scorers, will be hard to replace next year for veteran Lynn Long’s team.
  8. Seneca (20-8; 15+) – It turns out the second time was a charm for the Indians.  Seneca beat Big-8 rival Mt Vernon in the district championship just 11 days after falling to the Mountaineers in the regular season.  The celebration was short lived however as Strafford ended Seneca’s season a few days later.
  9. Nixa (22-6; 2.6) – It’s tough to have a target on your back and it’s even tougher when you do it without one of the state’s top players.  Austin Ruder and company proved to be one of, if not the, top team in class 5 all season, but a Tournament of Champions opening night injury to Jalen Norman was the turning point and the Eagles never showed the same dominance after that.  Despite losing Norman and Ruder Coach Osborne should once again compete for a trip to state next season with big man Jacob Ruder and emerging star Bryce Dulin coming back.
  10. Pierce City (19-11; 15+) – The Eagles were another team that was off my radar all season, and understandably so with 11 losses.  But ultimately they got hot at the right time and took down Miller and Crane before being narrowly defeated by Iberia in the quarterfinals.  Senior Cody Fitchpatrick will be tough to replace, but Matt Street’s Eagles have several others ready to step up and build on this season’s strong finish.
  11. Crane (22-6; 10.7) – Not a bad head coaching debut for Dale Lamberth.  The MSU alum led a talented bunch at Crane to a 22-6 season.  They ripped off nine straight wins at the end of the season before falling by two to Pierce City.  Despite rumors that Lamberth would bolt for a bigger school, he says he’s staying put at Crane, who will have some solid players returning next season.
  12. Billings (22-5; 3) – The Wildcats had an even bigger target on their backs.  Despite a spectacular season as the defending state champs it was the Crane boys who ousted Billings in the district championship.  A group of talent like this rarely comes along at a small school, but Billings has laid the ground work for the next generation of Wildcats.  Austin Essick and Brady Chastain move on as two of the best to ever wear the blue and gold.
  13. Hartville (23-5; 10.5) – Like Strafford, the Eagles had their season put on ice by red hot Fatima.  Otherwise, it was a memorable and successful year highlighted perhaps by head coach Brett Reed proposing to his girlfriend Maggie Arnall after a big Summit League win over Fordland.
  14. Mt Vernon (22-7; 6.8) – After losing just one senior from a Final Four team expectations were high for Mt. Vernon.  A difficult regular season schedule provided the training ground for a deep playoff run, but the ‘Neers had a slight slip in the district championship against Seneca; the final game for one of Mt. Vernon’s all-time greats Shane Williams.  Don’t expect a major drop off next season however as Chandler Myers returns to lead a talented group.
  15. Parkview (22-6; 8) – Not many saw Parkview being as strong as they were this season; except maybe them.  Coach Brown’s Vikings were efficient and effective, while senior Erik Durham was one of the best players in the Ozarks averaging 25 points per game.  The loss of Durham, A.J. Green and Nathan Reichert will be impossible to replace, but rest assured there are some new playmakers waiting in the wings.
Knocking on the door: Branson, Skyline, Carl Junction, Macks Creek, Ozark, Clever, Webb City, Everton, Dora, Licking

Photo Galleries

Pictures: Pleasant Hope 8, Rolla 3

The Lady Pirates top Rolla in nonconference action.

Pictures: New Covenant Academy vs. Galena

New Covenant Academy defeated Galena in volleyball on Tuesday by a score of 2-1.

Pictures: West Plains 1, Lebanon 0

The Zizzers blanked Lebanon in Ozark Conference action Tuesday night.
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