If you haven’t guessed, it’s playoff time for our area basketball teams.
In fact, most already have hung up the court shoes for the season. Only three remain as of Tuesday morning.
In Class 4, we have two boys teams and one girls team remaining. St. Francis Borgia Regional has both of its squads left while the Sullivan boys also are playing beyond the district level.
The playoffs are an interesting time. Admission prices go way up and every rule in the book gets enforced. At most places, the rules get enforced at least.
It’s the time of the year that people find out what they’ve been doing wrong for most of the season. Some locations do a better job than others in making sure the rules are followed.
I had the privilege of covering a good portion of the Class 4 District 10 Tournament in Union and the finals of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament in Hannibal.
Due to the schedule, I was able to make one trip to Hannibal Friday for the Borgia-Hannibal championship games. Borgia swept both, starting with the top-seeded girls breezing past Hannibal, 60-37.
Borgia controlled the game from the second quarter on and really wasn’t overly challenged. It was the school’s 15th district title and first since 2015.
Borgia senior Grace Gettemeier powers the Lady Knights and she was on top of her game Friday night. She hit multiple three-point baskets and pushed to the basket for layups as well.
Later, the team pounded the ball in to Avery Lackey and she finished off the game. Lackey is a mobile 6-2 sophomore who can handle the ball if necessary and she frequently finished off fast break baskets late in Friday’s title game.
In recent years, Stacia Houlihan’s teams have not had much depth. With a lot of energetic younger players, that’s changed. Many may not make the score column, but players such as Dani Kimminau, Josie Lindemann and Julia Struckhoff are starters who do a lot of the necessary things to win. Additionally, Borgia gets the same from Lynnae Grus, Mya Hillermann and Kaitlyn Patke off the bench.
Patke, a freshman, has forced her way into the rotation after getting a chance around the time of the Union Tournament.
For winning the district, the Lady Knights get an even tougher task. Borgia plays Tuesday in Troy against the juggernaut Incarnate Word Academy.
IWA is a massive team. The Red Knights haven’t lost a postseason game since March 19, 2016, when Owensville won the Class 4 third-place game at Mizzou Arena, 55-48.
Since that time, the Red Knights have added two more state titles and have collected nine MSHSAA title trophies. They’re the favorite to collect a 10th one this year.
In all likelihood, the season comes to an end for the Lady Knights Tuesday night, but it’s been a good one which gives the team plenty of experience for the future.
By the time Borgia’s boys took the court, Hannibal’s Korf Gym probably was too full. It was standing room only. For the first half, I had kids loudly cheering on one side as they tried to climb the balcony railing while adult fans were screaming on the other side.
Hannibal fans probably could have filled the place without anyone from Washington getting into the place. Of course, had there been no pep band, it would have been a bit easier to fit all into the gym.
The Hannibal fans were there to see the crowning of Dezi Jones, who scored over 2,000 points in his career. He’s a special talent and an outstanding shooter.
It also was supposed to be the resurgence of the Hannibal Pirates. They hadn’t won a district title since 2001.
Instead, they watched Borgia put together a big defensive performance to win their 34th district crown, 24th under Dave Neier.
Jones did everything he could for the top-seeded Pirates, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. But Borgia was able to hold Jones scoreless in the second and chip back to within striking distance.
The Knights took the lead early in the third quarter and didn’t look back. For me, the play which epitomized the Borgia effort was when Alex Brinkmann dove out of bounds to save the ball on the defensive end and then hustled back down the floor to finish off the possession on a layup.
Borgia’s 6-8 interior players Brendan Smith and Will Elbert kept Hannibal from thinking about driving to the hoop very often. In the end, Borgia won comfortably.
The Knights face a longtime rival Tuesday at Troy in St. Charles West. The Knights and Warriors played each year for a long time and were in a district together for a while.
St. Charles West knocked off rival St. Charles in the semifinals Thursday and McCluer in the title game Saturday, 48-46.
Borgia also defeated St. Charles during the Washington Tournament and took two of three games from St. Dominic, the team McCluer defeated in the semifinals Friday.
Tuesday’s game should be extremely interesting with either Ladue or Jennings waiting in the quarterfinals Saturday at Francis Howell Central.
The other area team playing Tuesday is Sullivan. The Eagles are facing Warrensburg at Missouri S&T in Rolla.
Sullivan was the third seed in the Class 4 District 10 Tournament and beat Owensville, Union and Rolla to advance.
It’s the first time since 2003 that the Eagles have advanced past the district level. And Sullivan prevented Rolla from being able to return for what amounts to be a home game in the sectional round.
The Eagles have outstanding outside shooting with Cody McKinney and Landon Hoffman capable of hitting shots from almost anywhere on the court.
Sullivan might not be as big as other teams, but it has scrappers. Players like Austin Lewis and Jacob Rohrer aren’t afraid to get in there and fight with bigger players.
Of course, having Dino McKinney on the bench is another big factor. Dino has a lot of coaching experience, both at the high school and college levels. He definitely knows how to control the game.
The team Sullivan faces, Warrensburg, also ended a title drought by beating Helias last Thursday, 55-53. It was the first district title for the Tigers since 2010.
In theory, the two local teams could meet, but it wouldn’t come until the final game of the season, third place or championship. That’s wild.
However, there are a lot of extremely good teams still out there.
I’ll close with stating that Union did an outstanding job, at least on the nights I was there, in running their district tournament. The gym was big enough to contain any crowd and Dan Ridgeway and his staff did everything to make sure everything ran smoothly.
Union even changed the schedule for the opening day Saturday to make things more convenient for Salem, Sullivan and Owensville. The other two schools playing, Union and St. Clair, only had one game that day.
Meanwhile, Hannibal did the least to accommodate a district which covered a large geographic area. That district ran from Kirksville and Moberly in the north and west to Borgia in the south.
The schedule of four games on Monday and four more Tuesday starting at 4:30 p.m. and ending with 9 p.m., favored Hannibal and Borgia. Hannibal got the easy run on the boys side. Kirksville won the 9 p.m. game Monday and had to return for a 6 p.m. game Tuesday. Hannibal had a bye. The Hannibal girls won the 4:30 p.m. game Monday and had a 7:30 p.m. Tuesday game.
Both of Borgia’s teams had byes Monday, which probably made Tuesday a bit easier.
Hannibal probably should have played the first four games on the first Saturday and then could have played the girls semifinals and boys semifinals on Monday and Tuesday. That would have made travel easier with only two games, 6 and 7:30 p.m., each night.
I would say that’s something the teams in the district should study next year, but with the new MSHSAA policy of reclassifying and redistricting each year, it’s possible there could be changes in that district in 2019-20.