POPLAR BLUFF - East Carter's defense of the Class 2 state title begins next week as the first round of the MSHSAA District 2 Tournament gets underway at the Black River Coliseum.
The Redbirds' postseason run started last season at the Coliseum with a win over Advance in the finals and continued all the way through the state championship game.
The tournament gets underway Monday with first-round action. The semifinals are Thursday and the finals are scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday.
The Redbirds have all five senior starters averaging double figures, led by all-stater David Reynolds at 18 points per game. Fellow all-stater Trevor Douglas averages 16 points, Tyler Stahl scores 14 while Allen Wilder and Brandon Crook chip in 10 per contest.
Of the four Redbird losses, only one was to a Class 2 school - eighth-ranked Alton. East Carter lost two of three games to Twin Rivers and lost to the ninth-ranked team in Class 3, Caruthersville.
"We play a pretty difficult schedule," Morgan said. "We have been beaten by four pretty good teams. I think it gives us an edge like it did last year."
Advance (15-9) is the second seed.
"I've seen Advance play and they have a real nice ballclub," Morgan said. "They lost most of their kids from last year's team but brought some kids up from the JV that are playing really well right now."
South Iron (13-7) is the third seed. The Panthers recently lost the championship game of the Black River League Tournament to East Carter by 15.
Ellington (12-10) is the fifth seed and Van Buren (13-10) is the sixth seed. The Bulldogs face South Iron in the first round.
"We played South Iron in a fairly close game early in the season," Van Buren coach Dustin Hicks said. "I like our chances the way we're sitting in the bracket. We have everybody healthy, so hopefully we can peak at the right time."
Puxico (5-13) is the seventh seed while eighth-seeded Greenville hosts Chaffee in a play-in game 2 p.m. Saturday at Greenville. The winner advances to face East Carter on Monday.
District 1: Senath-Hornersville is the top seed in the Class 2 District 1 Tournament that gets underway at Campbell Monday.
The Lions are currently 13-6 and are the favorites to bring home the title.
"We're playing good ball right now," Senath coach Shane Benson said. "I feel like we're playing about as well as we can play, but there are some other teams that are awful good."
One of the teams Senath will look out for is second-seeded Hayti (9-12). The Lions split their two meetings with the Indians this season.
South Pemiscot (12-10), which defeated Hayti earlier this season, is the third seed. North Pemiscot (17-5) is the fourth seed, followed by Campbell (11-9) and Neelyville (10-12).
The Tigers have been playing well of late and are coming off an eight-point win at No. 5 Campbell.
"I feel like right now we're playing fairly good," Neelyville coach Charles Patterson said.