By Jordan Burton
Kickapoo is the favorite in the area, but talent is all over in Class 5.
Here is what to expect this week.
Kickapoo vs. The Field
Kickapoo has proven that they’re the favorite until someone in the Ozarks can knock them off, which hasn’t happened in a while; two years to be exact. The Poo has given the business to local opponents with back-to-back undefeated Ozark Conference championships, which includes three straight wins over Nixa. The Chiefs have four losses this year and they’re about as quality as they come (Montverde, Green Forest, Jonesboro, Lee’s Summit West) and three of those losses came by a combined 14 points. As long as Kickapoo has all-time leading scorer Jared Ridder (24 PPG, 7 RPG) and Cam Davis (19 PPG, 5 APG), they’re going to be able to compete with anyone in Missouri. Sophomore Donyae McCaskill has given Kickapoo another person that can facilitate and senior Isaac Blakeslee can stretch the floor as well as anyone in the Ozarks. With bigs like Rutgers (football) signee Travis Vokolek and Mitch Closser putting it together, Kickapoo will be better equipped to handle teams like Nixa, Lee’s Summit West, Webster Groves and Rock Bridge, should the Chiefs continue to advance.
Republic keeps on trucking…
This team is every basketball purists dream; they defend, they value the basketball and they just play hard. Trevyor Fisher has created a culture where Republic doesn’t care about who they are playing, the Tigers are going to bring it. Three of their four losses came in the Bass Pro TofC and the fourth came against a Cardinal Ritter team that very well could win the Class 3 state title. RepMo has now won 10 straight, including wins over Nixa, Ozark and Willard. That is added to a resume that already includes wins over Parkview twice and Glendale. This is a REALLY good Republic team. Despite the fact they went undefeated in the COC Large, there is still a sentiment that this team is a fluke. Stop. Opponent’s score just 41 PPG and shoot 40% from the floor. Republic turns it over less than 10 times a night and has bonafide stars in Treydon Rackley (15 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 53%-42%-78%) and Ty Stevens (10.9 PPG, 48%-44%-80%). They might not win a district championship, but it’ll take someone’s best shot to out them.
Nixa again in the mix
When is a Jay Osborne team not a threat to make a Final Four run? This year’s edition is no exception. This is one of Osborne’s most balanced teams recently. Christian Bundy has been a grown man in the paint, senior guard Seth Viebrock is as steady as any point guard and Austin Bracker (10 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and Braeden Combs (10.4 PPG, 3.4 APG) have both accepted larger scoring roles. Four players are scoring in double figures and guards Evan Bergman (59 3s, 42%) and Nathan Elmer (33 3s, 38%) help keep the floor spaced. Nixa has won 20-plus games in each of the last nine seasons and is seeking its fourth consecutive district championship. Let’s not forget that this team beat Glendale, Harrison (Ark.), Belton and took two of three from Ozark. People aren’t talking about this team much, which is the way Osborne likes it.
Can Glendale shoot its way to Columbia?
There isn’t a more explosive offense in Southwest Missouri, maybe all of Missouri, than what Glendale is rolling out. Monty Johal already holds basically every scoring record in program history and he makes his 28 PPG look easy. Fellow junior Jordan Walton (21 PPG) would have eventually broken the scoring record if Johal didn’t. Then there’s Jaxon Davis, who broke Glendale’s single-season 3-point record (95). Davis has had seven games with at least half a dozen triples and his ability to shoot it makes it difficult to bring too much help for Johal or Walton. Glendale has scored 80 or more 15 times this season, which includes four 100-point games. They are scary explosive. The Falcons aren’t very big, which is an issue when trying to slow down guys like Jared Ridder and Christian Bundy, but Glendale’s offense is elite. Can they get enough stops to make a run?
Playing with house money at Ozark, Parkview
Everyone is expecting a Kickapoo-Glendale district championship on Thursday night, but their two semifinal opponents are anything but pushovers. Ozark has routinely given Kickapoo fits over the last few years. Last season the two programs met three times with the Chiefs winning all three. But, two of those wins came by a combined 11 points. The Tigers have wins over Bolivar, Parkview, Belton and Fair Grove. Ozark also stole one from Nixa, went toe-to-toe with SLUH (Class 5 No. 4) and nearly beat Glendale with a hobbled Curt Gracey. Mark Schweitzer’s group will be ready to play and junior Quinn Nelson (17 PPG, 81 3s at 42%) is capable of going off on a given night. He hit Nixa up for 21 first-half points when Ozark knocked them off. Their belief and fearlessness is the first thing necessary to pull off an upset… Parkview is another team that can light up a scoreboard. The Vikings have been extremely impressive in Landon Cornish’s second year, posting an 18-win season just one year after going 11-15 and losing multiple starters from that team. The play of JT Brown (17.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.5 SPG) has been outstanding all year, setting a single-game record by dropping 47 points on Willow Springs in the Blue and Gold. The biggest reason why Parkview Basketball is again relevant is the play of Lencorya Grady (13.9 PPG, 3 APG) and Dontae Taylor. Grady has heart that far exceeds his 5-foot-5 frame and Parkview is 8-2 when he scores at least 15 points. The Vikes will need him to make plays against Kickapoo.
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Parity rules in District 10
This district is surprisingly messy. Willard was the runaway top seed and heavy favorite to win it all. Not only are they the only team above .500 in the district, but they also went unbeaten against district foes. Lamont Frazier has yet another gritty team that can lock up defensively and grind out points; they’re the high school version of the old Pistons. Willard’s resume is underrated. People seem to forget these Tigers split with Bolivar and lost to Nixa and Republic by a combined eight points. Willard also has the best player in the district (Kenny Chambers) and the district’s most imposing post presence (Houston Johnson). They’ve won eight of their last 10 entering district play so beware… Lebanon is the 2-seed and lost to Willard by just three in the Blue and Gold Tournament. Lebanon is just 12-14, but seven of those losses came by seven points or less. Adam Thornhill has two of the district’s best scorers in senior Jack Ehrhardt and freshman Quenton Shelton. The scary part for Jackets is that two of those Ls came against 7-21 Springfield Central, who just happens to be their semifinal opponent… Central is far better than its record indicates. Five of those losses came by six points or less, with X of those being to Bolivar, Fair Grove, Lafayette and Willard. Robert Galvan is a legitimate scoring threat on the block, the Dankerts shoot it as well as anyone and D.J. Hardin and Tavi Robinson are great off the bounce… Waynesville has gone through a complete roster overhaul in the last two years. This team doesn’t have much experience, but playing at home could be the great equalizer.
• Ultimately, it’s going to come down to adjustments…
It’s so difficult to beat good teams multiple times and nearly every district game will be a rematch situation, especially the big ones. Kickapoo vs. Glendale, Nixa vs. Republic and Willard vs. Lebanon will all be rematches should the seeds hold. Furthermore, Kickapoo vs. Parkview and Glendale vs. Ozark are two matchups of talented teams. Quirky things happen in district games and rematches typically favor the better coach when things are essentially even and the Ozarks is home to some of the best. Jay Osborne and Dick Rippee are two of the best doing it. Trevyor Fisher has already proven himself as elite Xs and Os guy, while McTague, Cornish and Schweitzer are all extremely spicy offensively. Enjoy this week’s games, it’ll be a series of chess matches between some bright guys.
Seniors in need of a home
o JT Brown, Parkview
He’s been a smooth operator all year. It’s not the fact that he’s scoring 17 a night, it’s the way that he’s getting it. The 6-foot-2 wing is shooting 57% from the field, 47% from 3 and 85% from the line. He’s been an elite scorer this year.
o Seth Viebrock & Christian Bundy, Nixa
If you’re looking for a point guard or a 4-man then Nixa has you covered. Both guys are three-year lettermen that have played a major role in Nixa’s success. Vierbrock (10.7 PPG, 5.9 APG) is coming off of a 40-point performance against Webb City where he hit 17 of his 23 attempts from the field. He can defend, he can score and he can facilitate. Bundy has developed into Nixa’s next great post, putting up 17.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG and shooting nearly 70% from the field. His ability to use his body and quick bounce make him an intriguing prospect.
o Isaac Blakeslee, Kickapoo
Basketball is increasingly being played in space and Blakeslee is a guy that helps you create more of it because he shoots it at an elite level. He’s also deceptively long and athletic for a 6-foot-2 guard. He reminds me of Canyon Smith from Republic, who played a huge role on their title teams.
o Jack Ehrhardt, Lebanon
Ehrhardt is one of those solid seniors that just understands how to play the game. He leads Lebanon with 19.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 3.5 APG – all of which are team-highs. His name is all over the Lebanon record book, which is what happens when you’re a major contributor for four years.
o Houston Johnson, Willard
He’s already a good player which is scary because he’s not even scratched the surface of what he can be. He’s 6-foot-6 with a great frame, bounce and a soft touch. Injuries have slowed some of his progression, but his best basketball is in front of him and Willard can’t make a run without Johnson being the monster he was before a foot injury ended his junior season.
o Treydon Rackley & Ty Stevens, Republic
They remind me of guys that could be in Hoosiers, just way more athletic. In many ways they’re similar. Both can shoot it and have frames/athleticism that allow them to defend multiple positions. The best compliment you can pay them is how competitive they are. The reason the Tigers are having the season they are is because these two guys are unwilling to take a pay or game off and their effort is contagious.
Future of Class 5 in good hands
o Braeden Combs, Nixa
When all’s said and done he will go down as one of the best to wear a Nixa jersey. The 6-foot-2 guard is coming into his own as a sophomore, but next year will be his coming out party.
o Quenton Shelton, Lebanon
He might be the second coming of Austin Ruder. Shelton’s freshman year has been historic. He already owns the school record for single-season 3s (86 and counting), which is the reason he’s averaging 18.5 PPG. He’s not had a look that he didn’t like and depending on how many more games he gets this season he could work his way into a top-10 all-time scoring season by a freshman.
o Daniel Abreu, Willard
The 6-foot-3 freshman has had an immediate impact for Willard because he is a Lamont Frazier kind of guy. He’s gritty and plays a physical brand of basketball, which makes him a great fit in the COC. Abreu can defend multiple positions and is becoming more confident offensively, which will be a problem for everyone else moving forward.
o Dontae Taylor, Parkview
He’s found a role immediately at Parkview because of his athleticism. The 6-foot guard hasn’t struggled much with aggressiveness. He can get to the rim (8.6 PPG, 59% FG) and he loves jumping in passing lanes. As his jumper continues to develop you’ll see some D-1s take more interest.
o Donyae McCaskill, Kickapoo
His athleticism is in a class with guys like Deven Mitchell and Niekie Thomas-Fontleroy, with his game and build reflecting the latter. His role this year has been a little different playing next to Davis and Ridder, two guys that can create for themselves. Expect McCaskill to put everyone on notice next year with the ball in his hands more.
o Broc Smith, Republic
He’s shown flashes of being a big-time scorer for Republic and is basically the Jamal Crawford for the Ozarks; he’s coming off the bench to light it up. The 6-foot-3 wing is extremely skilled and can stroke it. Republic will need him to bring some energy off the bench for the Tigers to make a run.
Tough Sectional/Quarterfinal challenge
I feel sorry for the District 9 winner. It will likely come down to Rock Bridge and Blue Springs and both programs feature high level talent. But in order for them to reach the Final Four they’ll have to go through the best the Ozarks has to offer with the quarterfinal being in Bolivar, which is doable for those two. Rock Bridge has more 2019 talent than anyone in Missouri; Isiaih Mosley, Dajuan Harris and Ben Cooper are all MOKAN Elite guys with D-1 talent. Senior Eysan Wiley is one of the best bigs in Missouri. Blue Springs doesn’t have the same elite talent, but it’s still a team that took two of three from Lee’s Summit West, the same team that beat Kickapoo in Arkansas.