Schoch: Small-school teams should reign again

Schoch: Small-school teams should reign again

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Schoch: Small-school teams should reign again

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Small-school state basketball weekend is usually a celebration of Ozarks high school hoops.

Two years ago, seven boys and girls teams in the lower levels made the state finals in the six brackets that end on the second state weekend in Columbia.

In the past two seasons, three girls’ state championship games — one apiece in Class 3, 2 and 1 — featured area team against area team for the title.

For the girls, I expect this trend of impressive finishes to the small-school girls’ basketball schedules to continue.

In Class 2, there’s reason to believe Marionville will be making a return trip to Columbia.

Coach Ted Young’s Lady Comets did not lose a starter from last year, and return the powerful sophomore duo of Josie Young and Jaycie Dishman.

Marionville could even contend for the Mid-Lakes Conference title, a league usually dominated by the larger Class 3 schools.

Roadblocks for the Lady Comets in Class 2 could include Seymour, the top-ranked team statewide according to the coaches’ association; or Sparta, which has a sensational sophomore of its own in Cailyn Long. Pierce City, in District 12, also could be a roadblock for Marionville in sectional play.

Those teams should meet in District 10 play, with the winner possibly meeting Marionville in the quarterfinal.

Speaking of return trips to Columbia, the Walnut Grove girls are looking to get back after an agonizingly close loss to Eminence in last year’s final.

Cousins Heather and Lexi Harman are once again the focal point, both back for their junior seasons of already-accomplished careers.

Coach Rory Henry should have a motivated bunch, and does a good job of scheduling some of the area’s best teams: The Lady Tigers already suffered a loss Tuesday to defending Class 3 state champion Mount Vernon.

Staying healthy has been a problem for the Lady Tigers over the last couple years. But if both Harmans are playing well come postseason, there’s reason for optimism.

Rival Weaubleau should provide an early test for Walnut Grove in sectional play, but Henry’s team should get through.

Top-ranked in the coaches’ poll, the Walnut Grove girls could be state champions come March. With a little luck, the Harman cousins also could be set up to be repeat champs next year.

And with a pair of sophomores leading the way for Marionville, the Lady Tigers might not be the only area team with multiple banners in the coming years.

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