Performance under pressure keeps high school basketball teams playing into March.
We celebrate basketball district championships among some of the area’s small to midsize high schools. The American Family ALL-USA Ozarks Performers of the Week recognizes some of the top efforts in high school athletics in and around the Springfield area.
Here are this week’s selections:
Walnut Grove girls basketball
Hejna scored 22 points to lead the Tigers (24-5) to a 64-29 win over Wheaton in the Class 1 District 5 playoff game. Hejna established dominance and a desire to return to the Class 1 final four with 18 points in the first half. Walnut Grove is attempting a sixth consecutive trip to the Class 1 semifinals. The run includes three consecutive state championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Hejna attained 2016 all-state status in basketball and softball.
Crane girls basketball
You can never count out Crane when it comes to girls basketball. The winners of four consecutive Class 2 state championships started the season 3-9 and entered the Class 2 District 11 playoffs 10-15. Make that 13-15 and still alive in the sectionals thanks to wins over Galena, Miller and Blue Eye. Hicks led all scorers with 20 points in a 67-41 win over Blue Eye for the district championship and the opportunity to advance.
Fair Grove boys basketball
The freshman from Fair Grove put forth a scoring avalanche in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 66-58 win over Springfield Catholic in the championship game of Class 3 District 11. Gilpin scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, showing off poise beyond his age. Fair Grove (23-5) meets Lamar (22-4) in the Class 3 sectional playoffs Wednesday, March 1 at 6 p.m. at Willard High School.
Varsity sports coaches, would you like to nominate one of your athletes to be an American Family Insurance ALL-USA Ozarks Performer of the Week? Email your nomination to News-Leader high school sports reporter Rance Burger (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 5 p.m. each Monday.