These power rankings are based on dominance by class and not a strictly head-to-head ranking.
1. Springfield Catholic (15-0 – PR: 3 – C3)
The Irish are the area’s last undefeated team at 15-0. The made it back-to-back Blue & Gold championships with a Gold Division title at the end of December. Catholic has played just one game within single digits which was a seven-point win over Bolivar. Their championship win in the Blue & Gold over Class 5 Ozark was especially impressive. The Irish lost guard Jake Branham to an injury early as he contributed just two points. Charlie O’Reilly stepped up with a 24-point game while Ben Galligos added 12 points off of the bench. This week, the Irish have the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions where they will likely lose at least two games as they open with the nation’s No. 2 team McEachern and then will face another top 25 team in either Shadow Mountain or Belleville West. The most important game on Catholic’s schedule this week comes on Tuesday against Strafford. It would be easy to be looking past the Indians with the T of C looming, but a huge mistake to do so. The Indians are a quality team and district seeding will be on the line in the game.
2. Dora (12-1 – PR: 6 – C1)
I am very aware of the controversy surrounding Dora and the video that showed them switching out free throw shooters in a narrow win over state-ranked Licking. This ranking is much less about that Licking game and the controversy around it and much more about a 17-point win over defending Class 1 state champion Eminence the day prior to that game. These rankings are based on dominance by class and it is hard to get much more dominant than beating the defending champs who are again ranked No. 1 in your own class by 17. Isaac Haney is one of the area’s best scorers regardless of class averaging 26.4 points per game including a 48-point, nine-assist masterpiece in an 84-43 win over Lutie.
3. Mansfield (16-2 – PR: 4 – C2)
Class 2 is the area’s deepest class and right now I think Mansfield is the top of that group. Currently ranked No. 4 in Class 2, the Lions have lost two games since the last power rankings. The first was by one to Class 5 Republic in the Blue & Gold tournament with the second coming by five to Class 3 Mountain Grove in the Seymour tournament championship. Their experience sets them apart with only juniors and seniors in the rotation and seven of their top eight scorers being seniors. Dylan Caruso leads the way with 16.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. The Lions picked up a big conference and district win over Hartville by one point on Jan. 8. The win will go a long way in helping secure a No. 1 seed come time for district play.
4. Licking (13-1 – PR: 7 – C3)
Licking was on the other side of the controversial Dora game that saw the Wildcats take their first loss of the season. The Wildcats got a big, confidence-boosting win over Mountain Grove by 17 points on Jan. 8. The Panthers have ended the Wildcats’ season in the district championship game each of the last two seasons. They have a chance to make some statements this week in the St. James tournament. Licking drew the four seed and will face Class 5 Waynesville in the first round. A win there would set up a game with Class 4 No. 8 Sullivan. The other side of the bracket has Class 4 No. 7 Rolla and Class 3 No. 8 Blair Oaks.
5. Eminence (10-4 – PR: 1 – C1)
Eminence had a tough end to its run in the Cabool Tournament. The Redwings opened up with two wins before back-to-back losses to Dora (by 17) and Thayer (by 9). They avenged that loss to the Bobcats with a dominating 18-point win over the same Thayer team on Jan. 8. This week, Eminence is the No. 2 seed in the MV-BT Liberty Tournament. The Redwings could be on track for a third showdown with Thayer in the title game if seeds hold.
6. Crane (16-2 – PR: 11 – C2)
Few teams in the area shoot it as well as Crane. Bryston Branstetter knocked down 11 three-pointers in a 101-74 win over Galena in their home tournament. That set the school record for the Pirates. Crane would go on to win its home tournament title by beating a solid Marionville team in the championship game. They took two losses in the Blue & Gold Tournament to Class 5 Willard and Class 3 Mt. Vernon. Crane has only conference games remaining except for Friday when the Pirates face off with Class 3 Strafford.
7. Rogersville (10-3 – PR: 12 – C4)
Few teams have had a more impressive run since the last power rankings than Rogersville. The Wildcats took a six seed in the Blue & Gold and parlayed it into a Blue Division championship. They beat Mountain Grove, Nixa, Willard and Parkview on their way to the championship. Another win over Nixa and a 35-point decision over Aurora have helped Rogersville vault to the top of the area’s Class 4 contenders list. The Wildcats get a real shot to make a statement this week. They travel to Pittsburg (Kan.) for a tournament. Thursday they open with Olathe Northwest (Kan.). Win that game and they likely get a shot at the No. 1 team in Kansas, Blue Valley Northwest, who is led by Kansas commit Christian Braun.
8. Hartville (10-4 – PR: 9 – C2)
Hartville continues to impress in what looked on paper to be a rebuilding year at the start of the season. Since the last power rankings, Hartville is 2-3, but those losses came to Class 4 West Plains, Class 3 Strafford (by 1) and conference and district rival Mansfield (by 1). That game against Mansfield really shows where the Eagles are at. Mansfield is a deep and experienced team with good size, and the Eagles went toe-to-toe with them. Brett Reed has his team playing at a high level once again and they will be a threat. The Eagles have a big game this week at home against conference and district rival Fordland. Win the game and they still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in district play. Lose the game and the Eagles are likely sliding to a No. 3 seed in a difficult district.
9. Greenwood (12-3 – PR: 2)
Few teams in the area have wider variance between their ceiling and floor than Greenwood. The Blue Jays showed what they are really capable of in a win over eventual Blue & Gold champion Class 4 Rogersville on Dec. 20. That team is a real threat to win the state championship in Class 2. Since then, Greenwood has 2-3 with losses to Stockton (Class 3), Glendale (Class 5) and Spokane (Class 2). The game against Spokane hurts because the Owls are a district team that now owns a head-to-head win.
10. Ozark (10-4 – PR: NR – C5)
11. Kickapoo (8-3 – PR: NR – C5)
12. Republic (11-3 – PR: 15 – C5)
There is virtually no separation amongst the area’s Class 5 teams right. No area teams are ranked or receiving votes in the state rankings in the class as of now. Ozark owns the head-to-head wins over Kickapoo & Republic. The Tigers picked up an impressive 39-point win over a Branson squad that two days later beat a quality Joplin team by just two. Kickapoo will often have the best player on the court each time out behind Anton Brookshire. He was averaging 18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game through 10 games. It has been a long time since Class 5 has been this unpredictable. You could talk me into almost all 10 teams from districts 11 & 12 getting hot and making a run to the quarterfinals right now.
13. Rolla (10-3 – PR: 5 – C4)
Rolla is 3-3 since the last power rankings with wins over Hickman, Central and Hillcrest and losses to Rockwood Summit, Warrensburg and Helias Catholic. The Warrensburg and Helias losses are in class and one of those two would be an opponent for the Bulldogs in the sectional round of state should they win a district title. The St. James Tournament is on the schedule this week with several state ranked teams in attendance including Sullivan (C4 No. 8), Blair Oaks (C3 No. 8) and Licking (C3 No. 7).
14. Fair Grove (10-4 – PR: 10 – C3)
Fair Grove has gone 3-3 since the last power rankings, but all three losses are to Class 5 competition in Willard, Nixa, and Carthage by margins of 5, 8 & 4. The most impressive game of that stretch was a 22-point win over Stockton. That was Stockton’s first loss and only loss in class so far this season. The Eagles have Conway and Central this week before a chance to see some good competition in the Sparta Tournament the week of the 26th. They are the No. 2 seed with Greenwood (No. 1), Forsyth (No. 3) and Fordland (No. 4) being the other top seeds.
15. Thayer (11-4 – PR: NR)
Thayer is quietly building a quality resume out east. The Bobcats are not getting a sniff of the state rankings yet, but that could change with a good week at the MV-BT Liberty Tournament. So far, Thayer losses are to Willow Springs (C3), Dora (No. 1 in C1), Licking (No. 7 in C3) and Eminence (No. 4 in C1). The Bobcats then lost to Eminence in the regular season matchup. This week, Thayer is the top seed in the Liberty tournament. The Bobcats face the host Eagles on Tuesday and MHCA on Thursday. Win both of those and you are looking at the potential for a third game with Eminence in the championship.
OTHERS: Fair Play (11-4), Verona (12-3), Mt. Vernon (11-5), Skyline (10-4), Nixa (8-7)