While 12 teams will be playing for state championships today at Mizzou Arena on the campus of the University of Missouri, eight others will be playing at Drury for a chance to head to Columbia.
Four local teams will take on visitors from outside of southwest Missouri with a trip to state hanging in the balance.
The Republic boys and Webb City girls teams in Class 4 and the Kickapoo boys and Nixa girls in Class 5 should enjoy a nice home-court advantage for today’s quarterfinal games at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
“Maybe it will help us being familiar at Drury, maybe it won’t, I don’t know,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “We would’ve been glad to drive three hours to keep playing, just like Hickman wouldn’t complain about playing.”
Columbia Hickman comes to town as the state’s top-ranked Class 5 team, and the Kewpies (25-2) survived an upset scare by Washington in an overtime sectional on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Kickapoo (22-6) survived against Willard with a 31-30 victory, and sits one win away from Columbia.
“Every year you try to extend the season for the seniors,” Rippee said. “Our team, they love our three seniors.
“They’re a really close-knit group of kids.”
Seniors Chris Ward, Tyler Bussell and Tyler Hamilton are supported by a young cast, but so is Hickman, with 6-foot-6 post Cecil Williams serving as the only senior in the rotation.
Republic will face Borgia at 1 p.m., and first-year coach Trevyor Fisher said the teams mirror each other in a lot of ways.
Borgia went to state two years ago, and Republic did three years ago.
Senior Grant Hancock played a little during that state run as a freshman, and the Tigers have won the last two Gold Division titles at the Greenwood Blue and Gold.
“They have been in a bunch of big games in the past three or four years,” Fisher said. “This is something they’ve set their sights on first day of practice. I think they’re confident, and they’re playing with confidence and swagger.”
With spring break starting Friday, Rippee wondered if the student turnout might be hindered for Kickapoo. For Republic, a student tailgate pizza party at the high school starting at 10:45 a.m. before busing to Springfield should help.
“Having it so close to Republic will be a great thing, but the community has done a great job of coming out,” Fisher said. “I think that’ll be a comforting feeling for our players.
“But once the game starts, all that stuff goes out the window.”