Only one obstacle remains on the path to Springfield.
For the Sullivan Eagles, that obstacle is the Logan-Rogersville Wildcats.
At 23-5 on the season, Logan-Rogersville has matched the Eagles win for win. Sullivan enters Saturday’s 1 p.m. Class 4 state quarterfinal contest at Waynesville with a 23-6 record on the season.
While Sullivan had to go on the road to Union in District 10 and knock off two higher seeds in the tournament, Logan-Rogersville was the top seed in District 11 and hosted its district tournament.
Sullivan captured its first district title since 2003 by coming from behind in the second half to defeat the No. 1 seed, Rolla, 48-38, in the district final. The Eagles only got that far by avenging a previous loss to the Four Rivers Conference champion, Union, 51-40, in the district semifinals.
Rolla was ranked No. 10 in Class 4 in the final Missouri Basketball Coaches Association poll of the regular season.
Sullivan followed up on that win Tuesday with a 58-46 win over Warrensburg (24-4), the No. 8 ranked team by the MBCA in Class 4.
The Eagles seem to be using that poll as a hit list this postseason. Having already crossed off the No. 10 and No. 8 teams, Logan-Rogersville is up next and finished the season in that poll as the No. 7 ranked team.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Sullivan senior Austin Lewis said. “Our last (district championship) was in 2003. Looking at the sizes and stuff, you wouldn’t really expect our team to be moving on to a quarterfinals game, but I think a lot of people look down on us because of our size and don’t see how good our players really are. From the potential we knew (we had) as teammates, it feels great, but I think from the outside it looks even better because people seem to doubt us sometimes.”
The Eagles are led offensively by senior sharpshooters Cody McKinney and Landon Hoffman, both of whom helped get Sullivan off to a hot start from behind the three-point arc Tuesday. The Eagles put through five three-point baskets in the first quarter and never trailed against Warrensburg.
McKinney, the son of Head Coach Dino McKinney, earned Four Rivers Conference Player of the Year honors this season and leads the Eagles with 20.4 points per game on the season.
The district championship was the first of Dino’s career after seven seasons with the Eagles.
Hoffman puts through 13.7 points per game on average. Both he and Cody McKinney shoot better than 40 percent from three-point range and in the vicinity of 85 percent from the free-throw line.
Their play is backed by strong contributions from seniors like Lewis, Carter Adams, Jacob Rohrer, Cameron Cunningham and the FRC Sixth Man of the Year, Austin Frye.
“We want to go all the way to the final four,” Rohrer said Tuesday after the Eagles eliminated Warrensburg with a strong defensive effort that limited the Tigers to 15 points in the first half. “... I think we’re going to be pretty confident walking in there Saturday.”
While the Wildcats were the top seed in District 11, they weren’t necessarily the clear-cut favorites. West Plains (22-6) was the No. 2 team in that district and was ranked ahead of Logan-Rogersville at No. 6 in Class 4 by the MBCA.
The Wildcats made their home-floor advantage hold up though against the Zizzers in the district championship game, 49-43. Logan-Rogersville then eliminated Webb City (16-10), 63-52, in sectional play Tuesday in Nixa.
The last loss for Logan-Rogersville came on Jan. 26 at home against Helias Catholic. Other teams to pick up wins against the Wildcats have been Blue Valley Northwest (Kan.), Greenwood, Republic and Ozark.
At nine games in a row, the Wildcats enter the state quarterfinals on their longest winning streak of the season. Their previous mark was eight games in a row.
The Wildcats are led by senior Luke Vandersnick, who was named both the Big 8 East and Class 4 District 11 Player of the Year. Vandersnick led all scorers with 27 points against Webb City Tuesday. He put through 12 points against West Plains in the district title game where senior teammate Ryker Strong was the top scorer with 18.
Sullivan and Logan-Rogersville do not share a common opponent this season.
Whichever of the two teams advances Saturday will play at JQH Arena in Springfield this coming Friday at 1:45 p.m. in the state semifinals against one of two Kansas City Schools — either Grandview (26-2) or Southeast (24-4). The MBCA ranked Grandview as the No. 2 team in Class 4 at the end of the regular season and Southeast at No. 5.