History tells us that the last local Class 3 girls’ basketball team standing might be the best in the state.
Southwest Missouri has won each of the last three state championships in the classification.
However, most of the contenders from last year had significant losses to graduation.
In fact, one of the area contenders is no longer in Class 3, as Seymour has dropped down to Class 2 after finishing fourth last year.
Defending state champion Mount Vernon, Stockton, Licking, Willow Springs, Strafford, and the Groves — Fair Grove, Mountain Grove and Ash Grove — all have reason to believe they could be the last team standing in March.
District 10 likely comes down to Willow Springs, Licking and Mountain Grove. All three teams have pretty good size, but the title might come down to which guards emerge as the best come pressure time.
I predict Willow Springs will win another South Central Association title and finally advance out of districts after losing in the finals each of the last two seasons. The Lady Bears are under the radar right now, but could be the next area team to go to state.
Just like the boys, District 11 should come down to rivals Fair Grove and Strafford. I’m giving the edge to Fair Grove, though, as Morgan Kensinger is one of the finest athletes in the region.
At 6-foot-2, she should put the Lady Eagles over the top.
In District 12, the coaches’ association has young Ash Grove ranked No. 4 statewide, but I wouldn’t count out the defending champion Lady Mountaineers.
But it appears coach Brent Milleson’s group of talented juniors might be ready to take the next step from potential to performers.
The top seven players are all in the class, and led the team to 21 wins last year.
The defending runners up from Stockton could get out of District 13, but there is just too much production that will be lost from the graduation of the Burton twins, Garrett and Ashli.
But then again, we said the same thing last year.
In the end, though, it’s Ash Grove’s time to become an area power. Milleson might have the Lady Pirates hoisting a state title before this group graduates.
And they might even be ready this year.