Posted On: 12/24/16 1:57 PM
The Blue Division has the best storyline working – guard play. The top five seeds (Republic, Glendale, Hartville, Parkview, Clever) all have dynamic backcourt duos. The lack of consistent scoring options on the block for all five teams makes this bracket extremely intriguing. There is also the David vs. Goliath aspect with Hartville and Clever lurking on opposite sides. Here are some storylines to keep an eye on.
MVP: Treydon Rackley, Republic
Breakout Player: JT Brown, Parkview
More than just Kickapoo and Nixa?
In Class 5, Kickapoo and Nixa dominate the headlines every year but the best challenger to each team’s conference and district championship aspirations are Glendale and Republic respectively. This is a chance for each team to get a little confidence heading into the new year. Glendale is led by elite 2018 guard duo Monty Johal and Jordan Walton. Both are on D-1 radars and have gotten off to solid starts. Republic counters with 2017 duo Treydon Rackley and Tristan Stevens. If Johal and Walton are the area’s best offensive guard tandem, Rackley and Stevens may be the best defensive duo. They also have the length and frame to truly give them problems. Glendale likes to push tempo and Brian McTague understands how to exploit matchups offensively better than in the area, while Trevyor Fisher consistently has Republic among the best defensive teams. If this championship matchup happens it’ll be worth the price of admission.
Parkview, Landon Cornish hoping to make a run
The Vikings enter the tournament at 5-3 and their losses are all quality. Parkview fell to DeSmet by 3, Ozark in overtime and Republic on the road. The road to a title isn’t easy (likely Clever, Republic and Glendale/Hartville), but certainly doable for Landon Cornish’s team. 2017 G JT Brown (19 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.1 SPG) and 2018 G Lencorya Grady (16.4 PPG, 3.4 APG) have been sensational all season. The key is can they get some consistent help in the form of Demarcus Mason (10.5 PPG, 3 APG) and 2020 G Dontae Taylor (9.3 PPG). They’ve both played well this season and if they can continue to lock up and create offense without high volume turnovers, that takes some of the pressure off of Brown and Grady.
Small, but mighty
The Class 2 teams in this division are scary good – Hartville, Mansfield and Crane are three of the best teams in Missouri. Hartville is the No. 1 team in Class 2 and the defending state champion. They just beat Hazelwood Central and Deric Jones is playing at an elite level. The 6’2 2017 G/F hung 49 on Hazelwood Central, helping him eclipse the 1,000-point mark for his career. He’s averaging more than 25 PPG and is a matchup nightmare. 2017 G Dune Piper (15 PPG, 4 APG, 4 SPG) is the most competitive player in the entire bracket and the emergence of 2018 G/F Wyatt Ward (15 PPG) has added balance to Brett Reed’s team. They don’t like to lose and four of their seven losses in the last two seasons have come in the Blue & Gold. This team is built to finally get over the hump… Mansfield won its first six games of the season but has struggled as of late. The losses to Class 3 Mountain Grove and Springfield Catholic are no reason to panic, but certainly something worth noting. Terry Writer has something no one else has in this tournament in 6’9 2019 Dylan Caruso (12.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.5 BPG). He’s a true rim protector and when he’s playing at a high level Mansfield is really good. The other key is the Lions guard play. When Caruso is effective on the block that allows 2017 G Jonah Williamson (9.5 PPG) more quality 3-point looks. All of that allows 2017 G Mason Roy (15.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 3.4 SPG) to be in attack mode and create offense for both players. Roy is a sneaky athlete and poised for a breakout tournament. If Mansfield is to make a run it will be due to him continuing to mature into his point guard role… Craig Campbell must feel like his Pirates are the forgotten Class 2 team in Southwest Missouri. Crane is 6-2 with losses to Class 1 No. 1 Walnut Grove and Reeds Spring, both of which were competitive games. But here’s the deal, but losses came while 2017 G Dalton Hayes (20 PPG) was out with an injury. He will be back for the Blue and Gold and him being sidelined helped Campbell develop some depth, especially in the form of 2020 prospect Tyler Campbell. Crane will be a scary 8 seed… Clever is the 5 seed and I’m not sure anyone really wants to play them. 2017 6’6 G/F Jakob Partee will give everyone fits because of his size and skillset. Devan Hampton is one of the top 2018 point guards in the Ozarks
Upset-Alert: Mount Vernon over Republic
I don’t see any seeded teams losing in the opening round, but Republic has the toughest first round opponent. Mount Vernon’s record is awful, but that is largely due to who they play early. From a pure talent standpoint they are capable of competing. 2017s Jarrett Massie and Brett Campbell are guards with good frames that can attack off the bounce, post and shoot it with range. The ‘Neers also have the ultimate X-factor in 6’7 2018 Kyle Bushman. He has a soft touch and good footwork. As he develops into his body he will be a problem, but on a given night can put it together enough to give anyone problems. Classmate Ty Boswell is also emerging into yet another perimeter threat. They are big and if you allow them to operate in the halfcourt then they can give you problems. This team will be a sleeper in the Big 8, but are they ready to play Republic is the question.
Most Entertaining Matchup: Parkview vs. Clever (Potentially)
This 4/5 game will be a track meet should it happen. Parkview loves to get up and down and Clever loves to do the same. Both teams have point guards that love to push to the rock and coaches that allow them to do so. Both teams also have elite scorers in JT Brown (Parkview) and Jakob Partee (Clever). Luke Brosius loves what he has in this team and if you take away the nail-biting loss to Hartville, the Jays have been perfect.
Players to Watch
2017 G Treydon Rackley, Republic
2017 G Tristan Stevens, Republic
2018 G Monty Johal, Glendale
2018 G Jordan Walton, Glendale
2017 G Dune Piper, Hartville
2017 G Deric Jones, Hartville
2018 G Wyatt Ward, Hartville
2017 G JT Brown, Parkview
2020 G Dontae Taylor, Parkview
2017 G/F Jakob Partee, Clever
2018 G Devan Hampton, Clever
2019 G Charlie O’Reilly, Springfield Catholic
2017 G Mason Roy, Mansfield
2019 F Dylan Caruso, Mansfield
2017 G Dalton Hayes, Crane
2017 G Jarrett Massie, Mount Vernon
2017 F Anthony Rosas, Ava
2018 G/F Bryce Duddridge, Willow Springs