BELL CITY -- Two of Missouri's best Class 1 programs in recent years will be on the court Saturday when the Bell City Cubs take on Verona in quarterfinal action at West Plains.
Bell City won the state championship in 2002 and 2004, while the Wildcats won it all in 2003. Both teams have also dominated in district play -- Verona has won eight district titles since 1997, while the Cubs have won districts five years in a row.
"Bell City has a great tradition, as do we," Verona coach Brad Stewart said.
Verona (23-6) is led by the senior tandem of Nick Stellwagen and Andrew Smith, who average 20 and 17 points per game, respectively. The Wildcats defeated Thomas Jefferson Independent 51-42 to win their district, then defeated Eminence 44-40 Tuesday in sectional play.
"I've watched them play a little bit," Bell City coach Brian Brandtner said. "They are experienced in the playoffs. They've had a lot of success.
"They've got a few guys that can really play the game. We've been preparing for them. We're just going to go out there, play our A game and hope that's enough."
Meanwhile, the Cubs have been on a roll recently, winning its four postseason games by at least 30 points, including an 82-51 victory over Scott County Central in Tuesday's sectional at Cape Girardeau.
Against SCC, center Will Bogan scored 33 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, while teammate Nick Niemczyk scored 27 points. Both average around 18 points per game for the season.
"I think we're playing great basketball," Brandtner said. "I think everybody's chipping in on different nights. Some guys step up some nights and other nights, other guys step up. We're rebounding the ball right now real well, we're playing great defense.
"If you're guarding people and rebounding, that's going to put you in almost every game you're playing. If you throw the offense in on with that, then that's when you beat people pretty bad."
One thing is certain: Verona will be looking to stop the Cubs' offense Saturday.
"Our keys will be defensive rebounding, offensive execution and limiting open looks for key shooters," Stewart said.
Even though a win Saturday will send Bell City back to the Show-Me Showdown in Columbia for the third year in a row, Brandtner is not overlooking the Wildcats.
"That would be a great achievement for any school to be able to pull that off," Brandtner said of returning to Columbia. "That speaks for itself, but we don't want to get stuck looking at Columbia with this game staring us down Saturday. That's all we're focusing on is this game Saturday. If we win, then we'll talk about Columbia. Until then, we're just getting ready for them."
Tipoff at West Plains is set for 2:45 p.m. Saturday.