Southwest Missouri has brought home five consecutive state titles and that streak looks likely to continue this season.
Skyline looking for another state title
Skyline enters districts with 111 wins over the last four seasons, in search of their sixth consecutive Final Four berth. That’s crazy. What Kevin Cheek has built is nothing short of impressive and they’re not just Class 2 good, Skyline is as good as anyone in Missouri. Their only losses this year came to Class 3 powers Strafford and Clever, with the Strafford game being the toughest they’ll get all season. The Lady Tigers also own wins over Class 5 power Nixa (twice), Class 4 district title contenders Webb City and Rogersville, three wins over Fair Grove and a win over Walnut Grove. They’ve won seven straight games and haven’t lost to a Class 2 team since 2016.
For Cheek, this is a special group. He has a three-headed monster in guards Kaylee DaMitz (20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.1 SPG), Chloe Cole (13 PPG) and Autumn Garrett (11.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.9 SPG). DaMitz, a Pitt State signee, is having the best season of her career and shooting the ball at an extremely high level. Cole gives Cheek his best perimeter shooter he’s had in years. Getting four-year starter Savannah Owen back from injury also gives Cheek a post presence at both ends.
They can score. They can defend. They aren’t phased by anything. Until someone proves they can beat Skyline in a win-or-go-home format, the Lady Tigers are the favorite to win District 10 and the Class 2 state title.
Can Thayer complete perfect season
The Lady Bobcats are undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the state behind defending champ Skyline. The Lady Bobcats somehow got the No. 2 seed in the district, which is another argument for a different day. But, you can’t argue their body of work. All but one of their wins have come by double figures and 11 have been turbo clocks. Cecil Martin has a team that can pressure you, but also two dynamic guards in Julie Stone (18.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 4.5 SPG) and Caity Jones (18 PPG, 3.2 SPG). Stone went over the 1,000-point mark earlier in the season and she’s just a junior. She’ll also likely repeat as the SCA Player of the Year. They’ll get district host Van Buren in the District 3 semifinals, who they’ve beaten by 19 and 17 already this season. The one-seed in the district is Neelyville, who knocked off Thayer in last year’s district champion. Neelyville has won 12 straight games entering district play. Thayer has won 37 of its last 38 games. Something has to give…
Blue Eye could play spoiler
Class 2 headlines have been dominated by the return of Skyline and Thayer’s undefeated season, but Blue Eye is also an elite Class 2 team. The Lady Bulldogs are undefeated in Class 2, just like Skyline and Thayer. Their losses have come to Class 5 schools Branson and Kickapoo, Class 3 schools Fair Grove and Clever and 28-2 Arkansas power Berryville. This is a group that has wins over Class 5 Springfield Glendale, Class 4 Cassville (twice), as well as Crane, Gainesville and Fordland. Ken Elfrink has a group that converts turnovers into points quickly and a pair of talented guards. Sophomore Kohnnar Patton (18 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.3 SPG) is one of the best point guards you’ll see and junior Taylor Arnold (16.3 PPG) was an All-COC player at Nixa before transferring. Blue Eye also has juniors Kenedi Larson and Ayshia Bettlach who are two of the best defenders in Class 2. This group is built to win a state championship next year but is equipped to give anyone a run now. They’re also hosting District 11, where they’ve won 20 of their last 21 games.
Hartville back in the mix
The Lady Eagles are another team that’s been overshadowed by just how good the Ozarks is in Class 2, but Hartville could easily make a Final Four run. They enter districts with a 12-game winning streak, which includes wins over Class 3 schools Father Tolton Catholic and Lamar, as well as Gainesville, Fordland and Mansfield. Hartville has also beaten Pierce City, Crane and Verona. They love to play fast and are 9-0 when they score at least 70. Junior PG Sadie Chisum is working on yet another all-state season, averaging 17 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.7 APG and 3.3 SPG – all of which are team-highs. Coach Mike Percival has this group playing up tempo and loves to use his depth. Sharing District 4 with Fordland, Gainesville and Mansfield, he’ll benefit from having all of that depth.
District 12 is the modern-day Wild West
This will be one of the most fun districts to watch play out. Six of the eight teams are above .500 and all six are capable of making a title run. Sarcoxie is the 1-seed via a head-to-head win over Pierce City and Purdy. But, to reiterate how tough the district is, 4-seed McAuley Catholic beat Sarcoxie in Sarcoxie and 7-seed Thomas Jefferson gave the Lady Bears a great game. However, Sarcoxie also has wins over Miller, Class 4 Monett and Verona. This is yet another team built to make a run next year with juniors Chelsea Evans (18.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG), Giselle Lopez (11.6 PPG, 3.5 SPG) and Kierston Dodson (8.6 PPG, 2.9 SPG) all returning. She’ll also bring back freshman Anette Ramirez (12 PPG, 5.5 RPG). While the future is bright, this group has a resume that suggest they could make a run now… Pierce City has owned the district recently, winning district championships in four of the last five seasons. The Lady Eagles host the district and have one of the best homecourt advantages in the area. PC also has wins over
Miller, Purdy and Jasper. Three of their six losses have come by six points or fewer and Rob Guerin returns all of his production from last year. Junior Kendyl Hayward (17.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG) might be better than her sister and Belle Golubski (13.2 PPG) is still one of the SRVC’s top offensive threats. Point guard Ragan Blinzler (6 APG, 3.4 SPG) is still great at what she does… Purdy is the 3-seed and have the district’s best player in Laynie Skiles and have won nine straight games entering districts. They have wins over Class 4 Monett, Seneca, Jasper and Crane… College Heights is a sleeper in the district. CHC has been a little inconsistent at times but have tons of firepower with MSSU signee Marlee Lett (16.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG) and super sophomore Emmy Colin (18.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.2 APG). Colin has also knocked down 68 triples and shoots 87 percent from the line. On a given night they are capable of beating anyone in the district and Colin is that dynamic with the ball in her hands.
Fordland has a loaded backcourt
The Lady Eagles have one of the top guard combos in the state with junior Sophie Sparks (16.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.8 APG) and sophomore Abi Southard (18.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG). They can score in bunches and have done so throughout their careers. Fordland advanced past Seymour in the opening round of districts, but District 4 is about is tough as it gets with Hartville, Gainesville and Mansfield. They have wins over Class 5 Glendale, Pierce City, Gainesville and Mansfield, which shows what they’re capable of. They’ve also seen Walnut Grove twice, Blue Eye and lost to Hartville on the road by seven. They question is can they beat Gainesville for a second time and do they have enough to upset Hartville?
Gainesville finds life after injury to Annie Noah
One of the worst things about this season was season-ending injuries and Noah’s happened before she even had a chance to suit up as a senior. She averaged 16.8 PPG and 8.9 RPG as a junior and after a great summer was expected to have a monster senior season before a torn ACL ended the C of O signee’s high school career.
But, Gainesville hasn’t let that stop their grind. The Lady Bulldogs are on the verge of another 20-win season with senior guard Aspyn Britt (13.5 PPG, 5 APG, 3.4 SPG) and classmate Shelby Smith (9 PPG, 46 3-point FG) leading the way. They’ve won five straight entering Tuesday’s District 4 semifinal against Fordland. Gainesville has wins over Lockwood, Mansfield, MV-BT/Liberty and Bradleyville. The Lady Bulldogs also went toe-to-toe with Thayer and Hartville
Lockwood goes North
Lockwood is yet another team with Final Four credentials, and they have the perfect path to get there by avoiding teams like Skyline, Thayer and Hartville. The Lady Tigers have hit the ground running under first-year head coach Jessica McNichols, wrapping up a 20-win season and share of the SRVC championship. The Lady Tigers have won seven of its last nine games entering district play. This is a group that also competed at a high level in volleyball, winning a district title in 2016 and advancing to the Elite Eight this season. Seniors Rylee Neill (Benedictine signee) and Moriah Coose have seen it all. Their path goes exclusively north, so Lockwood has a chance to give the Ozarks three teams in the Final Four.
This is just what Jeremy Mullins does
Crane has won five consecutive district titles, sneaking one out in 2017 despite being sub .500. This year’s group is back almost completely intact and while the style is different than those championship runs, it’s extremely effective. Juniors Madison Hicks (14.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 BPG) and Olivia Doto (13.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG) are the twin-towers inside at 6-feet apiece. Junior Maggie Vaught (4.6 PPG, 5.7 APG) runs the show like a pro and there’s no shortage of players that like to defend. It also helps that fellow juniors Olivia Edwards, Sadie McMenamy and Macy Hayes can all shoot it from 3. This program is full of players that believe they’ll win big games. Crane has beaten Pierce City, which implies they’re capable of making another run.
Hannah Wilkerson back at home
Someday Miller should build a statue for former standout Hannah Wilkerson. For now, she’s just focused on delivering a district championship to her alma mater. The Lady Cardinals have exceeded expectations, winning 18 games and earning the two-seed in District 11 thanks to a head-to-head win over Crane. Miller has tremendous guard play in senior PG Lynna Hadlock (9.5 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.1 SPG) and two-guard Shayne Mallory (19.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG). Both also shoot the garbage out of the basketball. Hadlock dropped nine triples against Purdy and is shooting 38 percent from 3. Mallory is the program’s single-season and career 3-point shooter and is averaging 25 PPG over her last five regular season games. With the development of posts Bethany Guilick (9.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and Tori Collins (6.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG), Miller has enough to make a run.
Casey Wallace, Spokane
She’s scored more than 1,500 points in her career and is Missouri’s all-time career 3-point FG record holder. That number will only get higher through district play as the Lyon College signee keeps playing. She’s averaging 14.5 PPG and 2.5 SPG this season. She’s also been aided by the growth of 6-foot post Paige Tate (13 PPG, 13.2 RPG). Spokane played a brutal schedule so they’re battle-tested, but they’ll have to go through Skyline to win a district championship.
Heidi Sisco, Alton
She’s just the latest big-time scorer that Alton has produced. The 5-foot-6 junior is averaging a team-high 16.4 PPG and has knocked down more than 75 triples this season. Alton is 11-2 when she scores at least 18 points, with one of those losses coming in a decently competitive game with Thayer. She’s another kid that’s capable of going off enough to help her team pull off an upset.
Karsyn Brooke, Mansfield
The Lady Lions are another team that frequently plays a brutal schedule and coach Gary Greene likes it that way. Despite replacing multiple starters, Mansfield has again been extremely competitive with double-double machine Brooke (16 PPG, 11 RPG) leading the way. She’s just a junior and has also taken 25 charges for the defensively-sound Lady Lions. Mansfield hung with Gainesville (twice), Fordland and Class 5 Springfield Central, they’ll give Hartville a good game in the District 4 semifinals.
Courtney Bates, McAuley Catholic
McAuley enters districts with wins in seven of its last nine games, which includes knocking off 1-seed Sarcoxie in the championship of the Sarcoxie Tournament. Clearly, the Lady Warriors are capable. McAuley also owns a win over Jasper, who they’ll see in the 4/5 matchup. This district is loaded but Bates (14 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.6 SPG) and point guard Taylor Schiefelbein (5.7 PPG, 5.3 APG) make this team go. Don’t be surprised if they end up in the district championship game.