By Chris Parker
These power rankings are based on dominance by class and not a strictly head-to-head ranking. Losing to a team out of your class has much less of an affect on a team’s ranking than a loss in class.
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1. Hartville (C3 – 24-0)
The undisputed No. 1 team in southwest Missouri and in Class 3 statewide. Bluntly, the Class 3 state title is Hartville’s to lose. They will be the heavy favorite every time they step on the court in every playoff game. While Hartville does have a bevy of weapons, Ryce Piper makes this team go. Piper leads the team in scoring (18 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg), assists (3.4 apg), and blocks (1 bpg). His 1.8 steals per game are just behind Cody Mahan’s 1.9 steals per game. Braden Branstetter is scoring 13.9 points per game, and he is the team’s top three-point threat shooting 47.7% from downtown with 51 made 3-point shots. Those 51 makes are almost 1/3 of the team’s total three-point makes. Teams pay every time they lose track of Branstetter on the offensive end. Mahan (10 ppg), Brady Ward (9.5 ppg) and Eli Cook (7 ppg) provide Hartville with a deep group of scoring options. The Eagles are the No. 1 seed in Class 3 District 10 where Class 3 No. 7 Strafford is No. 2.
2. Kickapoo (C6 – 17-2)
Kickapoo has been coming together since losing to Hartville in the Springfield R12 Winter Classic. The Chiefs have won 11 games in a row since that three-point loss. Nixa pushed Kickapoo to the brink, but an Anton Brookshire steal and layup in overtime gave Kickapoo a two-point win in their game on Jan. 19. They are one of the most, if not the most, purely talented team in the state. This group has only gotten stronger with more time on the court together. The Chiefs will have an incredibly difficult path to a final four likely having to beat Republic and Nixa (for a third time) just to make a state quarterfinal. Republic would be an extremely tough matchup for Kickapoo in the district tournament, as the Tigers are equipped to slow the game down in a similar manner to Hartville.
3. Nixa (C6 – 18-3)
Nixa is rounding into form late in the season with four straight wins by at least 29 points. Four players are averaging in double figures scoring led by point guard Colin Ruffin at 12.3 points per game to go with over 6 assists per game. Jaret Nelson has helped bring balance to the team as a strong post presence averaging 11.8 points per game. Kael Combs (10.8 ppg) and Jason Jones (11.6 ppg) are also scoring in double figures. Kaleb Wofford is finishing strong in his senior year. Last Friday, Wofford went 8-for-11 from three to tie the school record for made threes in a game. Two of Nixa’s losses are to Kickapoo with the third coming to Hartville. The Eagles lost the first game to Kickapoo by two in overtime and the second just 11 days later by 15. They proved they can more than compete in that first game. If Nixa was to meet Kickapoo again, it would come in the state sectional round. One of the oldest clichés in the book is that it is hard to beat a good team three times. Nixa is a great team. The Eagles still have work to do in the regular season with the COC Game of the Year coming up on Tuesday at Republic with the winner being the final remaining unbeaten team in the conference.
4. Logan-Rogersville (C5 – 16-5)
Rogersville has several losses to teams lower on this list or not ranked. All of those losses came prior to Jonathan Dunn joining the team 10 games ago. Dunn has changed this team’s ceiling in a big way. The Wildcats were 7-4 prior to Dunn gaining eligibility. They are 9-1 since. Dunn is averaging 23 points per game while shooting 66.7% from the field and 75.2% on two-point shots. He has also averaged 4.5 rebounds per game. Kanon Gipson has been doing it all season for Rogersville averaging 17.9 ppg with 5 assists per game. He has been averaging 6.7 assists per game since Dunn entered the lineup. Rogersville had its nine-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a seven-point loss to Kickapoo. The Wildcats will represent the Big 8 East in the Big 8 Crossover (when it is rescheduled) and will likely play one-loss East Newton in that game.
5. Republic (C6 – 20-2)
Republic will have its chance to move up in these rankings on Tuesday when the Tigers welcome in Nixa for a key conference game. Republic can beat you in many ways with the ability to play fast or slow depending on what the game dictates. Drew McMillin had the game of the year against Camdenton going for 61 points and tying a state record with 16 made 3-point shots. He is averaging 22.2 ppg. McMillin is much more than a shooter leading Republic in rebounding (4.2 rpg) and assists (3.3 apg). Ahlante Askew is the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.8 ppg. What makes Republic truly dangerous is the supporting cast that includes Devon McMillin, Avery Moody, Carson Neff, Will Fronabarger, Tyson Young, Oliver Welch and Dalton Parks. All of that group has played in at least 15 games. They are willing to do the little things that don’t show up in the box score and play their part within the team. Republic’s path to a district title will be tough sharing a district with Kickapoo, but they are equipped to give Kickapoo trouble with their ability to hunt good shots and slow the game down.
6. East Newton (C4 – 20-1)
East Newton has slowly gained respect on the state level, as the Patriots are up to No. 4 in the Class 4 state rankings. They have won 14 consecutive games since losing to Mt. Vernon on Dec. 19. East Newton is a well-rounded group. Kyson Lahman leads the team in scoring at 15 ppg to go with 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Connor Killon runs the point and averaged 14.4 ppg, a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game and 2.3 steals per game along with 2.9 assists per game. Lucas Kimbrough gives East Newton a third player averaging double figures at 11.9 ppg. He leads the team in assists at 3.2 per game. Tanner Youngblood (6.6 ppg) and Kelton Sorrell (6 ppg) round out the starting five. Gabe Bergen is a talented sixth-man averaging 7.1 ppg.
7. Lockwood (C1 – 21-1)
Lockwood is sitting at No. 3 in the Class 1 state rankings. The Tigers’ lone loss came to fellow Class 1 school and district foe Golden City in the Golden City Tournament title game. Lockwood and Golden City split two regular season games, which sets up an incredible district title game if seeds hold. Max Schnelle continues to average a double-double at 19.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He also is contributing 5.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Blaine Garver (11.8 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.4 spg) and Kane Cooper (11.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) are both also averaging in double figures. Spencer Neal (4.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Dylan Gallup (3.7 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.1 apg), Brayden Hamilton (4.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and Elijah Kerr (2.9 ppg, 1.6 apg, 1.5 spg) round out the key contributors for Lockwood.
8. Greenwood (C3 – 16-5)
Greenwood is 4-5 over its past nine games. What is wrong with Greenwood? The schedule; that is what is wrong with Greenwood. From Jan. 15 through Jan. 30, Greenwood played eight games in 16 days featuring seven teams that were ranked in the Top 5 of their state rankings at the time of the game. The eighth was against a Rogersville team that had just added Jonathan Dunn and is now ranked in Class 5. There isn’t a single team in the area that would have come away from that schedule unbeaten. As for the playoffs, Greenwood will be heavily favored to reach the state quarterfinals where they would become heavy underdogs against Hartville. The Blue Jays will have to make massive changes to their game plan for any chance of turning around a 16-point loss to Hartville in the Springfield R12 Winter Classic.
9. Skyline (C3 – 20-3)
Skyline, ranked No. 8 in Class 3, picked up a signature win on Friday by beating Class 3 No. 7 Strafford 65-53. The victory marked 10 consecutive wins for Skyline and guaranteed at least a share of the conference title. Lawson Beem (18.6 ppg) and Bradyn Porter (18.4 ppg) provide a potent 1-2 punch. Beem also averages 4.5 assists per game while Porter pulls down 5.6 rebounds per game. Jaytin DeFreece is scoring 10.4 points per game while grabbing a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. Zack Williams runs the team on offense with a team-high 5.5 assists per game to go with his 7.9 points per game. Kourt Cheek (7 ppg) Trey Swearingin (2.6 ppg) help make Skyline a truly complete team. Defensively, Skyline has 174 steals (8.3 per game) with six players having at least 17 total steals on the season. Skyline got a favorable draw being put in Class 3 District 13. That means the Tigers would avoid the last one standing of Hartville, Greenwood and Thayer until a state place game.
10. Thayer (C3 – 19-1)
Thayer has been quietly going about its business in the eastern part of our coverage area piling up a 19-1 record. The Bobcats’ lone loss was to Viola (Ark.). Viola actually provides a good measuring stick for the area’s Class 3 teams. Hartville beat Viola 62-58. Greenwood beat Viola 55-53. Thayer lost to Viola 66-62. The Bobcats haven’t played as tough of a schedule as Hartville or Greenwood, but the Viola game shows that they can compete. Defense leads the Bobcats. They are holding opponents to 42.8 ppg and 37.5% shooting from the field. Offensively, five different players have scored at least 20 points in a game this year. Jordan Andrews leads the team with 20.6 points per game along with 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Gaige Pitts is averaging 12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He scored 30 points in a single half this year. Jayce Haven is averaging 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assist per game. Landry Pitts and Lane Grimes bring strong three-point shooting. Keaton Nicholson is the team’s leading rebounder who posted a 13-10 double-double against Viola. Thayer is in Class 3 District 1 meaning the Bobcats avoid Greenwood, Hartville and Skyline until the final four.
11. Crane (C2 – 16-4)
Crane is ranked No. 2 in Class 2 by the coaches behind the next team on this list, but I have them above Lakeland due to strength of schedule. The Pirates have losses to Class 4 East Newton, Class 5 Bolivar and Webb City and Class 6 Republic. The Republic loss was by one point and the East Newton loss was by two. Everything runs through Isaiah Smith. He is averaging 16.1 points, 7.2 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals per game. Smith set the career assists record for Crane this season. Brecken Vaught (11.2 ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.1 rpg, 3.6 spg), Taylor Calzaretta (10.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Aidan Vaught (10 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg) and Aric Spyres (8 ppg, 2.8 rpg) give Crane a deep group of players who can all score the ball at any time. Crane is the No. 1 seed in the Class 2 District 11 tournament. A matchup with Lakeland would only come in a state title or third place game.
12. Lakeland (C2 – 20-0)
Lakeland is on the VERY edge of our coverage area, but they are just inside that range. The Vikings are unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Class 2. Rafe Kalberloh is the team’s top player averaging 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assist per game. Blake Munsterman (14 ppg), Garrett Strange (12.8 ppg), Corbin Meeker (11.4 ppg) and Gavin Wilkins (8.4 ppg) all score at a high level as well.
13. Golden City (C1 – 18-4)
Golden City will be battled tested heading into the Class 1 District 6 tournament. The Eagles split regular season decisions with No. 1 seed Lockwood. Their win over Lockwood in the Golden City Tournament title game is Lockwood’s lone loss on the year. Lane Dunlap continues to be one of the area’s top players averaging 26 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game. Josh Reeves (16.5 ppg) and Chain Parrill (13 ppg) combine with Dunlap for a potent top three scorers. The Eagles will get a rubber match with Lockwood in the district title game if seeds hold.
14. Chadwick (C1 – 21-2)
Chadwick has executed its pressing defense exceedingly well this year on the way to a 21-2 record. The two losses are to Norwood (by three) and Viola (Ark.). The Cardinals are the heavy favorites to win their district. The biggest challenge will come in the sectional round where Chadwick will have the unenviable task of facing South Iron, which is one of the state’s top teams regardless of class.
15. Strafford (C3 – 19-5)
Tyler Ryerson has done a fantastic job at Strafford this year. On paper, this year looked to be a rebuilding year for the Indians after graduating seven seniors from last year’s team. That has not been the case. Strafford’s losses this year have come to Hartville, Summit Christian, Crane, Skyline and Ozark. The first four teams are all state-ranked with Ozark being a Class 6 school. A big reason for Strafford’s sustained success this year is senior Vance Mullins. Mullins is averaging 10.2 points. 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He is the unquestioned leader of this team who often also gets the task of guarding the other team’s top player. AK Rael is averaging 16.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He has made a huge jump from his freshman to sophomore year after he averaged just 4 ppg as a freshman. Rael is an offensive force that often gets buckets whenever the team needs one. Seth Soden (14 ppg, 5 rpg) rounds out the double-digit scorers for Strafford. He can scorch the nets from three, but has also been instrumental doing a little of everything for Strafford from playing down low at the five or setting screens to get his teammates shots. He is also an adept passer when other teams step up and try to take him away on offense. Strafford has the unenviable task of being the No. 2 seed to No. 1 Hartville in the Class 2 District 10 tournament. Hartville beat Strafford 74-56 on Dec. 18.
16. Nevada (C5 – 15-5)
Nevada has been one of the area’s most consistent teams over the past five seasons finishing with at least 18 wins in each of the past four seasons. The Tigers appear to be on their way to that mark for a fifth straight season this year. This team has turned it on since the calendar flipped to 2021 with an 11-2 record since the Christmas break including eight straight wins. All of the losses have come against quality opponents including Mt. Vernon, Ray-Pec, Bishop Miege, Webb City, East Newton. The Tigers avenged the loss to Webb City in the Frontenac Tournament title game. A recipe for postseason success starts with a great floor general. Nevada has one of the state’s best in Logan Applegate running the show. He is averaging 22 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while knocking down 70 3-point shots on the year. Logan McNeley (11 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.6 apg) and Lane McNeley (6.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg) are two more senior guards Nevada leans on. This trio all stand at 6’2 giving Nevada good size on the perimeter. McNeley would run the show for many area teams, but plays his role well for this team with knock-down shooting. McNeley is a defensive stopper who often is tasked with shutting down the other team’s best scorer. Senior Ben Hines is the team’s leading rebounder averaging 4.3 per game to go with 7.3 ppg. Evan Rea, Eli Cheaney and Case Sanderson all contribute in the 5-7 spots on the roster with each of them averaging between 4 and 6 ppg.
17. Catholic (C5 – 14-6)
Catholic is another team that might be getting hot at the right time. Specifically, Zach Howell is getting BLISTERING hot at the right time. On Friday, Howell set the Springfield city single game scoring record with 55 points. He followed that up the next day with 41 points in a win over Aurora. All of Catholic’s six losses have come to state-ranked teams. The Irish were quarantined for the last half of January not playing a game between Jan. 12 and Feb. 2. Howell was averaging 25.8 points per game heading into Saturday’s 41-point effort. He had hit 69 three-point shots at a 39% clip after the Mt. Vernon game. Howell is also a strong rebounder with 9.6 rebounds per game. Liam O’Reilly (11 ppg) and Will Squibb (10.2 ppg) are also scoring in double figures for the Irish. Catholic should be the No. 1 seed in the Class 5 District 10 tournament.
18. Norwood (C2 – 19-5)
If Garrett Davault was doing his thing in Springfield, everybody would know his name. The junior is a scoring machine and a big reason I have Norwood at No. 18 in these rankings. Davault scored 50 in a game last week in 25 minutes on the court. He is averaging 25.5 points per game on the season while pulling down 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He has knocked down 60 3-point shots at a 40.8% clip. Gavin Drake has developed a solid outside shot in his sophomore year and is the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.4 ppg. Jalen Drake and Max McGowan are the two guards out front for Norwood. McGowan the team’s top defender. Justin Chadwell does a bit of everything for Norwood and always defends the opposing team’s best big. Josh Bradshaw, Zack Black and Jacob Sinning have all started at some point this year and have each hit big shots when called upon. Norwood is the No. 1 seed in the Class 2 District 10 tournament. The Pirates have not lost a game in class this year. None of their losses have come by more than nine points. The only teams that have played Hartville closer than Norwood this year are Kickapoo and Viola (Ark.).
19. Webb City (C5 – 15-7)
Webb City started the season started 9-1, but has stumbled to a 6-6 record since. The talent is there for the Cardinals to beat any team on any given night. You don’t want to see this team across from you come playoff time. Nickhai Howard is one of the area’s most productive players averaging 15.4 points, 8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Cohl Vaden is just behind him at 12.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Mekhi Garrard (9.6 ppg), Luke Brumit (9 ppg) and Trenton Hayes (8.5 ppg) give Webb City a stable of players that can beat you on any given night. All three of those players have had games where they have scored at least 17 points. Webb City will be battling with Nevada for the No. 1 seed in the Class 5 District 12 bracket. The two teams have split games this year, so a third matchup would only come in a district title game.
20. Alton (C2 – 16-6)
We head out to the eastern part of our coverage area for the No. 20 spot. The Alton Comets are the top seed in the Class 2 District 2 tournament. Half of Alton’s losses have come to Thayer. They do not have an in-class loss this season.