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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Not as much needed this year

Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Soon New Madrid County Central fans will hit the open road, making that familiar trip to Columbia for the 3A Final Four. Is your lucky rabbit's foot already packed?

Former coach Lennies McFerren once stated that no matter how good a team was, it couldn't win state without catching a few breaks along the way.

And that has been indisputable up to this point. Two years ago, the Eagles definitely benefited from two huge breaks.

First was the infamous no-call at the end of regulation to beat Reeds Spring in the semifinals.

Then before the championship game, Park Hill South's leading scorer went down with an injury in the morning shootaround.

There were no obvious make-or-break plays or calls in last year's Final Four, but the Eagles seemed to get the better end in two close games.

So how much luck will it take this year as the Eagles shoot for title No. 3?

Very little, if any.

I don't want to jinx anybody here, but compared to the last two years, this Final Four looks like a cakewalk.

Where are you Helias? Anybody seen Ozark? Did Cameron fall off the face of the earth? How about St. Charles West or Westport?

Did Mexico head for the boarder?

For one reason or another, the major competition this year has already exited stage left. Teams left include Nixa, MICDS and Westport Charter.

Remember though, you can never look past a Final Four team. After all, they're not representing their corner of the state for cheerleading -- they had to beat somebody good to get this far.

Nixa took down Ozark, who was ranked No. 1 in the state at the time. But the very next day, three Nixa players were kicked off the team for violating school policy. Just one starter was lost, but it was their leading scorer and rebounder.

MICDS got here by nipping St. Charles West. That's a quality win, but earlier in the year, the Rams lost to Whitfield 60-43. NMCC beat the same team 72-45 a month later.

That brings us to the quick and athletic Westport Charter -- who appears to be nothing more than a poor man's NMCC. Personally, I think the only team capable of beating the Eagles this year is the Eagles.

You know, that out of control alter-ego that surfaced against Poplar Bluff and in the fourth quarter against Portageville. If the Eagles experience that kind of letdown against any of these teams at state, they're in trouble.

If they're focused on the task at hand like they've been 99 percent of the time this year, expect another state championship.

I predict NMCC beats Westport by 10 on Friday, then rolls over depleted Nixa in the title game on Saturday. Win or lose, I hope Eagle fans have appreciated this run of talent.

Matthews claimed one state title 34 years ago, and I'm still hearing about how sweet that stinking team was.

This group has won two of them, and is on the verge of winning three. Some area schools are still waiting for No. 1. Enjoy it while you can Eagles because you never know if this special kind of team will ever come around again.