Pacific has home court advantage for next week’s Class 4 District 9 boys basketball tournament.
The Indians return to the district after two seasons away and are the second seed. As Pacific returned to the district for the next two seasons, Salem was shuffled out. That has kept the district at six teams.
Pacific is seeded second, but an injury earlier this week could change things. The Indians lost sophomore standout Cullen VanLeer to a season-ending knee injury.
Borgia is the defending district champion, beating Sullivan in last year’s championship game at Union, 44-33.
Borgia is the top seed for the Class 4 District 9 Tournament and has won four district titles in a row, reaching the MSHSAA Class 4 championship game for three seasons in a row (2009-11). The five-time state champions aren’t as unbeatable as in the past, but posted a respectable 17-8 overall record and went 6-2 in their first year of Archdiocesan Athletic Association competition to place second in the league.
The Knights will be receiving an emotional boost when Head Coach Dave Neier returns to the bench. He missed the final two games of the season due to surgery and the team is eager to have him back leading the squad.
The Knights will look to seniors Jordan Miller and Casey Kuchem to lead the way.
Miller averages 14.4 points per game and led the AAA Large Division in assists and steals per game.
Kuchem, who averages 11.1 points per game, can hit the outside shots but is a tough defender near the basket.
Borgia’s success is going to hinge on how others do. Borgia’s other three normal starters are senior John Baumstark (7.6 points per game) and juniors Zac Schweissguth (6.8 points per game) and Joe Helfrich (6.5 points per game).
The Knights also need to get positive production from their blue-collar defenders senior River Filla and juniors Adam Meyer and Kevin Birk to be able to win the district.
Host Pacific is the tournament’s second seed and the Indians are looking for their first district title since 1982.
Playing at home under energetic Head Coach John VanLeer should be a boost. The Indians are hosting the district event in the tight confines of “The Reservation,” which should be a help.
The Indians tied for second in the Four Rivers Conference at 5-2 in the loop. Pacific is 15-9 overall.
The Indians will have to replace Cullen VanLeer’s 18.5 points per game after he was hurt Tuesday.
The Indians get 8.5 points per game from junior Tanner Brown and 7.1 points per contest from senior Zeth Boyer.
Others to watch include juniors Jeffrey Hinkle and Logan Armstrong and sophomore Noah Boyer.
Four Rivers Conference co-champions Sullivan and St. Clair hold the next two seeds.
Sullivan is seeded third at 17-7. The Eagles claimed a share of the league title by going 6-1 in the Four Rivers Conference.
The Eagles feature a scoring trident with junior Justin Biermann (16.3 points per game), senior Seth Mesey (13.2 points per game) and senior Adam Weiland (10.9 points per game) leading the way.
Biermann is one of the team’s best outside shooters, but also averages 8.2 rebounds per game. Weiland averages 6.2 boards per contest while Mesey has pulled down 5.4 rebounds per game.
However, word is that Mesey may not be able to play due to injury. He did not play Wednesday night in Sullivan’s loss to Pattonville.
After that, senior JC Beckett is an outside shooting threat and averages 6.2 points per game.
Dino McKinney has a strong coaching pedigree having been in many close games during his career.
St. Clair has come on strong after a rough start and stands at 12-11 with a 6-1 league record.
The Bulldogs feature an athletic team with a number of scoring threats.
Senior Neyko Dominguez (15.5 points per game) is capable of hitting the outside shots or driving to the basket.
Senior Adam Brott (8.0 points per game) is a handful for any team to defend near the basket.
Senior Brandon York (7.6 points per game) is making up for missing much of last season due to injury.
The Bulldogs also can look to senior Evan Murphy, junior Ben Feddersen and junior Reno Jones, who average five points or more per game.
Fifth-seeded Union (5-18) has one of the taller teams around with 6-7 senior Brandon Ford (11.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game) and 6-9 junior Brian Borgmann (4.7 points, 3.3 rebounds per game) in the lineup.
Chris Simmons has a younger team and relies on a number of sophomores to provide key minutes. Nick Ziegler is the team’s leading scorer at 13.3 points per game. TJ Vitt (6.4 points per game) paces the team with 3.1 assists per game and Blake Hulsey (7.5 points per game) is the team’s leader in steals at 1.3 per game.
Rounding out the bracket is Owensville (5-18).
The Dutchmen are better than last season, but still have struggled. Sophomore Drew Garner (9.0 points per game), senior Dalton Littrell (7.2 points per game) and senior Cole Farris (6.4 points per game) are capable scoring threats for Owensville.
Junior Nathan Smith (3.5 points per game), Farris and freshman DeAndre Cox (4.6 points per game) are the team’s top rebounders.