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. Kickapoo (C6 – 19-2)
I said it back on Dec. 25 in the first version of these rankings, and it still stands true today: when fully healthy, the Kickapoo girls basketball team is the best team in the state. The Lady Chiefs have won 15 games in a row. That stretch includes a 17-point win over a one-loss Jefferson City team, a 34-point win over one-loss Willard, a 21-point win over two-time defending Class 1 state champion Walnut Grove and most recently a 30-point win over three-loss West Plains. There are three teams in the state that would currently be undefeated if they didn’t cross paths with Kickapoo. Kickapoo is averaging 73.8 points per game while giving up 40.6 points per game. Yes, the typical game for Kickapoo ends with a running clock. The Lady Chiefs are almost unstoppable on the boards, as they are out-rebounding teams by 19 per game. They are also shooting 48% from the field. Indya Green is a double-double machine averaging 19.8 points and 11 rebounds per game. Bella Fontleroy has increased her averages up to 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Kaya Goldsby (9.4 points, 5 assists and 2.5 steals per game) and Rachel Senn (8.2 points per game) would be the No. 1 options on a lot of teams in the area. Circle Feb. 24 on your calendar. That is when Rolla comes to Springfield in a game that will likely decide the Ozark Conference champion. Rolla handed Kickapoo one of its losses back in December, but the Lady Chiefs played that game without Fontleroy.
2. Willard (C5 – 18-1)
Willard is the heavy favorite to win the COC after starting 5-0 in conference with wins over Nixa, Carl Junction, Republic, Nixa and Webb City. The balance of the Lady Tigers is insane. They are averaging 65 points per game while giving up 49. They get 22 points (34%) of their scoring from their bench players. This team truly hunts the best shot as evidenced by 65% shooting from the field. Brielle Adamson (13.9 points, 2.4 assists, 2.1 steals, 2 rebounds per game), Addy Adamson (11.8 points, 4.6 steals, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game) and Jada Holloman (11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 2.7 assists per game) lead the team in scoring and several other categories. Vanessa Wells leads the team in rebounding with six per game. Willard creates great offense from defense with five different players averaging at least two steals per game. The Lady Tigers get another shot at Kickapoo this coming Saturday.
3. Miller (C3 – 23-1)
Miller is ranked No. 3 in Class 3 in the state coaches poll. They should be No. 1. They have won 20 games in a row since losing to Kickapoo on Dec. 5. Two months without a loss. The schedule hasn’t been soft either. Over a four game stretch in late December to early January, Miller beat Hollister, Walnut Grove, Crane and Strafford in consecutive games. The Cardinals also own two wins over Class 4 El Dorado Springs. This past Saturday, Miller beat Class 3 No. 6 South Callaway by 10. The Lady Cardinals don’t have depth, as just six players have played in every game this year. The starting five average between 26 and 29 minutes per game. Kaylee Helton leads the team with 17.5 points per game. She is also the top rebounder at six per game. Claudia Hadlock is scoring 13.7 points while distributing a team-high 4.9 assists per game. She also leads the team in steals with 4.1 per game. Payten Richardson is also in double figures at 11.2 per game. Lili Merrick (8.1 points) and Alyssa Hill (6.3 points) round out the rotation for Miller.
4. Walnut Grove (C1 – 17-4)
Walnut Grove did lose a game in class to Leeton by five points on Jan. 25. I am still not betting against the Lady Tigers come postseason. Since that loss to Leeton, Walnut Grove has wins over Class 2 No. 2 Richland (by five), Class 6 Lebanon (by 12), Class 3 No. 2 Skyline (by one) and Class 3 No. 4 Tipton (by 12). The Lady Tigers will have the best player on the court throughout the playoffs in Faith Gilkey. Gilkey is averaging 23.8 points 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 3.8 assists per game. MaKayla McVey (13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.7 steals per game) and Lauren Johnson (11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.5 assists per game) give Walnut Grove a wealth of options. Sadye Crump (4.3 points) and Jaedyn Johnson (4.7 points) are also providing valuable contributions along with Morgan Halley.
5. Skyline (C3 – 21-3)
Skyline always plays one of the area’s toughest schedules, and this year is no different. The Class 3 No. 2 Lady Tigers’ three losses have come to three teams (Kickapoo, Willard, Walnut Grove) above them on this list. The losses to Willard and Walnut Grove were by a combined three points. They are a heavy favorite to make a run to the final four out of Class 3 District 13 with no other ranked teams in their four-district pod.
6. Mt. Vernon (C4 – 19-3)
Mt. Vernon’s three losses this season are all out of class to Class 6 Kickapoo and Ozark and Class 3 Skyline. The Mountaineers will represent the Big 8 East in the Big 8 Crossover (whenever it happens) as the No. 1 team in the conference. The top of the roster hasn’t changed with Lacy Stokes and Ellie Johnston providing one of the area’s best 1-2 punches. Stokes is averaging 24.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.9 steals and 5 assists per game. Johnston is averaging 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Raegan Boswell (5 points, 4.4 rebounds), Lisa Kruger (3 points, 2.4 rebounds) and Allie Schubert (3 points, 1.7 rebounds) are also providing valuable contributions. Jolie Prescott and Kadence Krempges both are strong defensively and do a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score. Mt. Vernon is also getting stronger. Caemryn Cassity has played just seven games this year. She returned to the court this past week after being out since playing last on Dec. 18. Cassity is averaging 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game in seven games.
7. Rolla (C5 – 13-5)
Rolla was the most difficult team to place on this list. They have losses to a Lutheran North team that is hovering around .500 along with losses to Republic (by 3), Class 6 No. 3 Jefferson City (by 19), Class 3 No. 9 Strafford (by 7) and St. James by nine. What has Rolla here is their wins, not their losses. The Lady Bulldogs own two of the area’s most impressive wins over Kickapoo, who was without Bella Fontleroy, and over West Plains by seven. This team is clearly capable of big things when hitting on all cylinders. The rotation runs seven deep for the Lady Bulldogs with Savannah Campbell (13.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game) leading the way. Carli Libhart is adding in 12.3 points and a team-high 2.8 assists per game. Taniya Corley (8.3 points), Willow Gideon (6.8 points) and Madison Mace (5.9 points) give Rolla a deep group of scoring options. Rolla has a frantic close to the season with six conference games remaining over the next 10 days. That run culminates in a rematch with Kickapoo. A game that will likely decide the Ozark Conference title.
8. West Plains (C5 – 20-3)
West Plains started the season 19-1 before losing two of its last three to Rolla and Kickapoo. Those last two losses dropped West Plains from a top three spot spot in these rankings to here. After losing in class, in district and in conference to Rolla, the Lady Zizzers had to fall behind the Lady Bulldogs. West Plains’ success will be dictated by the performance of the defense. The Lady Zizzers are 19-0 when holding their opponent to 53 points or fewer. They are 1-3 when giving up 54 points or more in a game this year. Offensively, Ashton Judd (18 points, 11 rebounds), MacKenzie Brunson (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Allyssa Joyner (9 points per game) lead the Lady Zizzers.
9. Hollister (C4 – 19-4)
Nine points. That is all that stands between Hollister and an unbeaten record. The Lady Tigers have lost to Miller (by two), Mt. Vernon (by three), Strafford (by tree) and Marshfield (by one). They should be the No. 1 seed in Class 4 District 11 when the bracket is released this week. Mt. Vernon would stand in Hollister’s way in the sectional round if both teams were to win their district tournaments. Everything runs through Bug Bailey for Hollister. The senior is averaging 24.5 points, 5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. She has hit 77 3-point shots this year. Bailey takes care of the ball well with just 38 total turnovers in 20 games. Gabby Franciskovic (10.3 points per game), Nesa Clarida (7.5 points, 5 rebounds) and Jackie Pyatt (8.2 points) provide great support behind Bailey. Brisa Gere is the team’s leading rebounder at 7 rebounds per game.
10. Blue Eye (C2 – 17-5)
Blue Eye has five losses but none of them are even close to being a ‘bad loss’. The five losses have come to Bergman (30-1 overall), Class 3 No. 3 Miller (23-1), Class 3 No. 9 Strafford (17-6), Class 6 Nixa (16-6) and Class 3 Sparta (18-4). All of those teams either are in these rankings or are from out of state. Blue Eye actually split with Sparta in the regular season. Everything goes through twins Riley and Avery Arnold. Riley runs the show averaging 17 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. Avery is pouring in 13.7 points per game while shooting 38% from three. Kyla Warren is one of the team’s top athletes averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Makayla Johnson is the team’s top rebounder pulling down 7.1 per game to go with 5.5 points per game. She has also drawn 16 charges in 21 games. Gracyn Fairchild is another scoring threat averaging 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Samantha George provides valuable bench minutes with 3 points and 3 rebounds per game. Blue Eye is the top seed in Class 2 District 11.
11. Richland (C2 – 14-3)
Richland is ranked above Blue Eye in the state coaches poll with Richland at No. 2 and Blue Eye at No. 3. I have them flipped in my rankings due a greater strength of schedule for Blue Eye. There is an incredible symmetry between Richland and Blue Eye, and I would love to watch a state quarterfinal matchup between the two. Richland is led by the duo of Katelyn Cole and Miranda Moss. Cole, who is quickly approaching 1,500 points for her career, is averaging 17.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.1 steals per game. Moss, who passed 1,000 points for her career on Jan. 26, is averaging 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds. 3.1 assists and 2 steals per game. Belle Harley has stepped up in the second half of the season averaging a double-double since Christmas. She is averaging 9.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on the season. Allie Belshe (6.4 points, 1.8 rebounds), Abby Latham (3.6 points, 3.4 rebounds) and Brandi Allen (2.8 points) round out the rotation for Richland.
12. Strafford (C3 – 17-6)
Strafford briefly dropped out of the Class 3 state rankings before getting back in at No. 9 this week. This team deserves more respect. They are the No. 1 seed in the Class 3 District 10 tournament above the Class 3 No. 5 ranked Sparta. The six losses are the most since 2014-15, but I am not betting against the Lady Indians until they are beaten in the playoffs for the first time since that 2014-15 season. Strafford lost to 23-1 Miller by just two points on Jan. 7. Emma Compton leads Strafford at 15.9 points and 3.5 assists per game. Emma Mullings (12 ppg) and Mattie Walker (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) give the Lady Indians three players averaging in double-digits scoring. The path to a sixth straight final four won’t be easy having to likely beat No. 5 Sparta in a district title game followed by either No. 10 Steelville or last year’s state runner-up Licking in the sectional round. Barring upset, Miller would await in the quarterfinals.
13. Sparta (C3 – 18-4)
Sparta is sitting at No. 5 in Class 3, but is the No. 2 seed to Strafford in the Class 3 District 10 tournament. The Lady Trojans go as their offense does. Sparta is 0-4 when held below 50 points and 18-0 when scoring more than 50 points. Laney Humble is Sparta’s top player. They were without her for two losses, which is significant considering she is averaging 24.4 points, 4.9 rebounds. 3.6 steals and 2.9 assists per game on the season. Natalie Wilks (11 ppg), Megan Brown (10.5 ppg) and Brynn Holt (10 ppg) illustrate just how explosive the offense can be for Sparta with four total players averaging in double figures.
14. El Dorado Springs (C4 – 17-5)
El Dorado Springs isn’t getting any votes in the Class 4 state poll, and I am uncertain as to why. The Lady Bulldogs have five losses on the year to Class 3 No. 2 Skyline, Class 3 No. 3 Miller (twice) and Class 6 Republic. They are led by the trio of Macie Mays, Reese Schaaf and Tevi Gurley. Mays is averaging 20.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.5 assists per game. Schaaf is just behind her at 18.2 points, 8 rebounds. 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game. Both players are shooting over 54% from the field. Gurley gives El Dorado Springs a third player in double figures at 10.1 per game to go with 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. They have a clear path to make a run to a final four out of Class 4 District 13. The only ranked team in their four-district pod is No. 4 Maryville.
15. Republic (C6 – 14-7)
Republic is tied for the most losses on this list. Those losses have come to teams with a combined record of 112-13. That includes Class 5 No. 3 West Plains (twice) Class 6 No. 1 (Incarnate Word), 2 (Kickapoo) and 3 (Jefferson City), Class 5 No. 1 Willard and Class 3 No. 9 Strafford. Three of those losses are problematic for a ranking based on dominance by class like this, as Republic would likely have to beat all three of those Class 6 teams to win a state title. The Lady Tigers share a district with Kickapoo, and turning around a 28-point defeat is a tall order. Republic has ended Kickapoo’s season in each of the past two seasons in the playoffs, so this team is familiar with the Lady Chiefs come win-or-go-home time. Kaemyn Bekemeier continues to be one of the area’s top players. In a loss against Willard, Bekemeier did everything she could with 25 points and a school-record 23 rebounds.
16. Nixa (C6 – 16-6)
Nixa has six losses on the season, but they have come against Kickapoo, West Plains (twice), Republic, Willard and Fayetteville. You can’t fault the Lady Eagles for any of those, and they did take one game off West Plains accounting for one of the Lady Zizzers’ three losses. Macie Conway leads Nixa with 16.5 points per game. Ali Kamies is also scoring in double figures at 10.3 per game. Nixa should be the No. 1 seed in the Class 6 District 11 tournament when the bracket comes out later this week, but the Lady Eagles will likely have to avenge a loss to either Kickapoo or Republic to advance to the state quarterfinals.
17. College Heights (C2 – 20-2)
College Heights has a great record and is a defending district champion. The Lady Cougars, who are ranked No. 5 in Class 2, are 46-5 over the past two years. I have them down this low despite the record due to strength of schedule. College Heights is the No. 1 seed in Class 2 District 12 tournament. Greenfield, which is ranked No. 6 in Class 2, is the No. 2 seed in the district. If the Lady Cougars are able to win another district title and seeds hold in District 11, a rematch with battle-tested Blue Eye will await in the sectional round. Blue Eye ended College Heights’ season in the sectional round last year.
18. Carl Junction (C5 – 13-7)
Carl Junction is a quarterfinal team in my opinion. Destiny Buerge is really coming into her own leading this team with 23 points per game. She exploded for a career-high 48 points last week in a win over Webb City. Buerge contributes across the board with 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 3.1 assists per game. Klohe Burg (14 ppg) and Jessa Hylton (10.4 ppg) are also scoring in double figures. Kylie Scott is leading the team in rebounding at 9 per game while also scoring 9 points per game.
19. Chadwick (C1 – 17-5)
Chadwick is the second Class 1 team on this list and has a real shot of making the program’s first final four since 2014. The Lady Cardinals are heavily favored to win the program’s first district title since 2015 as the No. 1 seed in Class 1 District 4. The path to a final four is favorable with just one ranked team (No. 9 South Iron) in Chadwick’s four-district pod that feeds to the final four.
20. Marshfield (C5 – 16-4)
Marshfield has flown under the radar for me all year. That is partly because the Lady Jays have a couple of losses to teams currently under .500, but they are playing their best baseketball at the right time. They have an incredibly tough district that would require them to beat likely beat both Rolla and West Plains to win a district title. They slide into the last spot on the strength of a buzzer-beating one-point win over Hollister on Friday, which secured second place in the Big 8 East. The Lady Jays are 10-1 since the calendar turned to 2021, so they are one of the area’s hottest teams heading into the final stretch of the season. The 16 wins is the most for Marshfield since winning 26 games and going to the final four in 2013-14. The 80% winning percentage so far is a marked improvement, as the Lady Jays have gone 51.9%, 53.8%, 34.6%, 53.8%, 30.8% and 57.7% in winning percentage since that 2014 final four appearance.