When the curtain rises again tonight on girls high school basketball, two games in particular will draw eyes across southwest Missouri.
At Parkview, it’s 6-foot-1 standout and Lady Bears commit Aubrey Buckley going against Ozark and 6-foot senior Hannah Cook, a University of Alabama signee in a matchup of 8-4 and 6-5 teams, respectively.
At Crane, defending Class 1 state champion Walnut Grove visits the defending Class 2 state champs. Both games are scheduled for about 7:30 p.m.
“Hannah has the ability to do so many different things,” Parkview coach Keri Nichols said of Cook. “She can shoot the 3-pointer, take the ball off the dribble, and post you up. You pretty much have to guard her everywhere on the floor. Anytime that you have to know where someone is all the time, it makes it more difficult to guard everyone else.”
The Lady Vikings, who are led by Buckley’s 20 points, nine rebounds per-game average, give Ozark coach David Brewer concerns with the athleticism of their guards.
“Other than defending Buckley, I think my biggest concern is their quickness on the perimeter,” Brewer said. “Their intensity is really good. They can really get after you on defense and cause problems for people with the basketball.
“It should be a good game. It’ll be a knock-down, drag-out battle.”
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” she said. “There’s two Division I players matching up head-to-head. I think a lot of people will come out to see Hannah Cook versus Aubrey Buckley.”
Meanwhile, much interest also will be in Crane as Walnut Grove (9-2) and the Crane Lady Pirates (15-1) take the floor.
Crane, which saw its 31-game winning streak ended in the Pink and White Lady Classic, features one of the deepest teams in the Ozarks. Last year, they defeated the Lady Tigers 55-46 in Walnut Grove.
“They can play 10 or 12 kids a night,” Walnut Grove coach Rory Henry said. “When they beat us last year, I thought what really put them over-the-top was their depth.
“They’re so good at relentless pressure.”
While the Lady Tigers have to worry about Crane’s never-yielding attack, the duo of Drury signees Heather and Lexi Harman could cause headaches for Crane coach Jeremy Mullins.
“They’re quality players,” Mullins said. “They’ve played with each other for years and know each other’s tendencies. They’re both all-around good players who do the fundamental things well. It’ll be a tough game.”
Walnut Grove, which hadn’t lost a game in 362 days until falling to Ash Grove 67-49 on Jan. 11, dropped its second game of the year Thursday at Marshfield.
“It’s tough, because we’re not used to it,” Henry said of his team’s recent losses. “The truth is that we’re playing very good competition. We’re going out of our class and playing up, and we welcome that kind of competition.
“We’ve got a group of leaders, and I know our kids are going to respond well.”