While it’s still very early in the basketball season, any way you look at it, some good teams are going to go home before the Class 4 District 6 girls basketball tournament concludes at Union High School in early March.

In soccer, they call tough draws the “Group of Death.” Class 4 District 6 might be the “District of Death.”

At this point, there is no weak team among the six which will vie for the district title.

Sullivan is the defending champion and Jason Merkel has his team playing at a high level once again with the Marquette Tournament title already in the trophy case. The team is 7-0 after a big win over Northwest Monday night in the opening round of the Sullivan Tournament, 54-13.

Three returning standouts, Bria Jones, Mallory Shetley and Clare Shetley have picked up where they left off and the team has filled in for the seniors who graduated last year.

Last year’s runner-up, Pacific, is 6-1 with the Lutheran South Tournament championship and a win over district rival Borgia. Grace Burrows, MVP at Lutheran South, and Maddie King have been two of the top players, but like Sullivan, it’s a team effort. Julia White is the team’s only senior.

However, results against Pacific prove the district is a lot closer than people might think. The Lady Indians nudged past Borgia and needed four overtimes to beat Parkway West. Union got a three-point basket Monday night to edge Pacific in the Four Rivers Conference opener.

Borgia (4-2), a semifinalist last season, has started Archdiocesan Athletic Association play with two wins.

Borgia’s losses to date have been against Four Rivers Conference teams Hermann and Pacific. The Lady Knights will have to learn to beat the FRC squads to have any success in the district, which features four teams from that league among the six.

Cassidy Moss, the lone senior, is the team leader, but a number of different players have filled roles for Borgia. The key is getting them to all contribute in big games.

St. Clair, which reached the semifinals of the district tournament last year, has started the season at 4-3, but took on some big competition at the Stephanie Phillips Classic last weekend in Springfield. While the team went 1-2 at Kickapoo, the experience will make the team tougher once the season hits the home stretch. The Lady Bulldogs are playing at the Rolla Tournament at the end of this month as well. Expect Mike Scheer to have the team ready to make some noise late in the season.

Union (4-3) didn’t win a district game last year and is very young this season. That probably won’t be a problem for Dusty Weiskopf by the time the team hosts the district though. While Union features seven freshmen and two sophomores, the youngsters have already proven they’re capable of playing at this level. Like Pacific and Borgia, the team has one senior (Kennedy Reeser) which will bode well for the future.

The team we really don’t know much about is Parkway West. The Lady Longhorns are 1-4 so far, but took Pacific to four overtimes last week. Three other losses have come against the other Parkway schools and there’s usually good competition there. There is no one big scorer on that team with three averaging over seven points per game.

Whichever team takes home the district championship plaque will have to be ready as there will be a solid team coming out of the other district. It was Parkway North last year.

The teams in District 6 who also compete in the Four Rivers Conference have another challenge as the league again has some very tough teams.

Besides Sullivan, Hermann also is undefeated at 6-0 and won the Montgomery County Tournament.

New Haven and St. James each are 4-2. New Haven has the same core group that finished second in the Class 1 volleyball state tournament and St. James has reloaded after graduating some very strong players.

Right now, the only team struggling is Owensville, which hasn’t won as of Monday. The Dutchgirls are two seasons removed from finishing third in Class 4 and are the last team to beat Incarnate Word Academy in a playoff game. It’s still a long season and things can change dramatically between now and the end of the season. We’ve seen that too many times.

The good thing is that many teams aren’t playing during Christmas break, so they’ll have plenty of practice time to put the lessons learned in November and December to work to come up with something different for tournament month (January) and league month (February) to prepare for the postseason.

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The evolution of the Union Wrestling Tournament over the past 28 seasons has been nothing less than amazing. The event used to consist of eight schools and two mats when I first started. At times, it increased the competition level and at other times, it experienced a dip.

The 2017 event might have been the biggest of them all with four mats, 17 schools and 25 teams (eight were JV squads) competing for the title.

While there was a very high level of competition, the thing that impressed me the most was how smooth the event ran. The tournament organizers made the most of their space and kept things rolling. If you couldn’t make it, you could follow online at trackwrestling.com. There didn’t seem to be any real difficulties and those which popped up were handled in a proper manner.

I know the MSHSAA district tournament normally doesn’t come this way (Farmington seems to have a corner on Union’s current district), but Union is ready to host a postseason meet.

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If the Missouri Football Coaches Association gets its way, we may be seeing some changes in how MSHSAA puts its classes together.

According to Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus, there has been a proposal made to make Class 6 32 schools and the rest of the classes 64 schools. That would likely collect some of the larger Class 4 schools into the new Class 5 and shuffle the deck for the smaller classes as well.

There’s no secret that the playoffs favored teams which had moved down from Class 5 to Class 4 in the most recent cycle and that class seemed to have the biggest difference in school enrollments during recent cycles.

The other big change could be the timing of district announcements. The new proposal would have schools learn in the second week of August, after practice has started. Proponents say this would eliminate empty spots in districts if a team drops the sport or declines to participate in the playoff system. Opponents feel schools deserve to know what their path through the playoffs is before practices start.

In the past, football and basketball districts have been announced in the spring. The rest aren’t released until after the start of practice. That’s really not fair. All should be released prior to the start of practices in my opinion.

Another proposal would be to change districts and classes every year instead of every two years. This is tricky as eventually MSHSAA would have to do that for all sports (remember when jamborees were exclusively for football?) and that could create a bigger mess. I don’t know if there is a big enough bump in school enrollments (other than new schools) to justify the extra effort to do that, but we’ll see what the schools have to say about it.