The road forward for the Sullivan Eagles lies to the west.
Sullivan, the Class 4 District 10 champion, holds a 22-6 record on the season as the Eagles travel to Rolla Tuesday night to take on the District 9 champion, Warrensburg (24-3), in the sectional round at Missouri S&T. The game will tip off at 6 p.m., followed by the girls sectional between District 9 champion, Osage (23-3) and the District 10 champion, Rolla (23-3).
Sullivan Head Coach Dino McKinney, celebrating his first district championship in seven seasons with the team, knows there are no easy contests at this point in the season.
“We didn’t look past Owensville, much less past any of these next two, so I’ll get on the phone with some coaching buddies and see what we can find on them,” McKinney said. “With us, we do things a little unorthodox anyway. We know they’re going to be good. Anybody at this time of year is going to be good.”
In addition to winning the District 9 Tournament, Warrensburg has won one other tournaments this season at Clinton.
Two of the Tigers losses were in tournament play this season, one of which was at the Rolla Holiday Tournament. Warrensburg lost to Raytown South in the semifinals before beating the host team in the third-place game, 59-42.
Sullivan defeated that same Rolla team Friday night in the district championship game at Union, 48-38.
Warrensburg also lost a rescheduled game in the championship round of the California Tournament to Centralia, 54-40, and suffered its only other loss in a home game against Center (Kansas City), 81-72.
Besides Rolla, the Eagles and Tigers do not share a common opponent this season.
The only teams to defeat Sullivan this season include Farmington, St. Dominic, Blair Oaks, MICDS, St. Charles and Union.
The Eagles avenged that last loss by defeating Union in the semifinals of the district tournament last Tuesday.
Sullivan has made its mark this season on the perimeter with three-point shooting and then finishes strong from the free-throw line to put opponents away late.
Leading the way in both categories are senior guards Cody McKinney and Landon Hoffman. McKinney has a team high of 20.4 points per game on the season and shoots 51.6 percent from three-point range and 86.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Hoffman puts through an average of 13.7 points per game, knocking down 82.9 percent of his free throws and 42.5 percent of his three-point shots. He has been known at times this season to deliver on longer range three-point shots from beyond the volleyball line when he gets hot.
Backing up McKinney and Hoffman is an experienced lineup that includes seniors Jacob Rohrer, Austin Lewis, Carter Adams, Cameron Cunningham and Four Rivers Conference Sixth Man of the Year Austin Frye.
Warrensburg ended the regular season ranked No. 8 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.
The Tigers, much like Sullivan, bring a lineup packed with seven seniors — Zach Reed, Luke Mackey, Ejyah Sheridan, Peyton Long and Luke Landwehr.
The Tigers reached this point by virtue of a 55-53 win against Helias Catholic Thursday in the District 9 championship game in Boonville. Warrensburg, similarly to Sullivan, had to overtake its opponents lead in the fourth quarter. Helias held a six-point lead with just under five minutes to play.
Of the 55 points in Warrensburg’s district title game victory, 53 came from its seniors.
Whichever team advances Tuesday will play again on Saturday in Waynesville against either Logan-Rogersville (22-5) or Webb City (16-9) in the state quarterfinals. That game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Waynesville High School.
In the girls bracket, the winner between Rolla and Osage will face either Logan-Rogersville (21-7) or Carl Junction (18-9) in the other state quarterfinal at that site Saturday at 2:45 p.m.