The Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau will play host to 16 high school teams, large and small, that will be eager for a chance to call themselves the Christmas Tournament champions. Bragging rights also included.
For the fifth-straight year, the Charleston Bluejays have received the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Last year, the Bluejays fell in a shocking upset to the potential winner Bell City Cubs in the semifinal round. And in 2005, the Bluejays, again, lost in the semifinals to Notre Dame, who also went on to claim the title. Ever since winning the tournament in 2002, the Bluejays have failed to reach the final round.
Charleston head coach Danny Farmer believes that any team could end up winning the whole thing.
"I think it's going to be a tough tournament," Farmer said. "Anywhere from five to six teams could win it. We're going to have to play tough in it."
After losing a close one to state-ranked Borgia at the Heartland Hoopfest in Perryville, the Bluejays (7-2) are looking to rebound and make a run to reclaim a Christmas Tournament title. Charleston defeated the Notre Dame Bulldogs in 2002 to win their impressive 15th Christmas Tournament championship.
Charleston will be relying on 6-5 senior Brian Parham and 5-9 senior Antonio Riggins to help carry them deep into the tournament.
The Bluejays will be matched up against No. 16 Delta Bobcats in the first round.
Charleston is also ranked No. 3 in the Missouri Class 3, state rankings.
The No. 4 Scott County Central Braves are also among the favorites in the tournament. Although the Braves have traditionally been one of the premiere teams in the area throughout the years, coach Ronnie Cookson and his Braves has had trouble winning a tournament championship.
"We have a tendency not to play real well at Christmas," Cookson said. "I hope we do this year. We're just going to go up and play them one at a time and hope we do the best we can do."
Last year, the Braves were also victims of the champion Bell City Cubs. The Cubs trampled Scott Central 80-60, in the quarter-final round.
Scott Central (6-1) will be playing the No. 13 Chaffee Red Devils in the first round.
"Chaffee has got a real good ball club, real physical," Cookson said. "They got a couple of outstanding shooters and a couple of big men inside that helps them on the boards. I think it's going to be a good ball game."
"We're just going to go up and play them one at a time and hope we do the best we can do."
The last time that the Braves were able to run the table at the Christmas tournament was in 1990. Coach Cookson is looking to take home his fourth tournament title and Scott Central's fifth overall.
The Braves will look to their big three, in 6-1 senior Caleb Johson, 5-10 senior D.D. Gillespie and 6-0 junior Drew Thomas, to take them on a run throughout the tournament.
Scott County Central is currently ranked third in the Missouri Class 1, state rankings.
It has been a little tough for the Kelly Hawks this early in the season. But, after a win in their last game against Puxico, the Hawks are wanting to use some of that momentum going into the tournament.
"Win or lose, if we can get better every game going towards the end of the year, thats what we're looking for," Kelly head coach Nate Wills said. "We want to have a good showing, the kids are excited about it. A lot of people come and see them play and it will be the first time most of them have played up there."
The No. 11 Hawks will have to go up against the No. 6 Scott City Rams in the first round.
"Scott City's very good," Wills said. "We just gotta come out and keep building some momentum. I think if we keep doing the things we're doing right now, good things will happen."
The returning champion, Bell City Cubs are bringing in a spotless record of 8-0 to the Show-Me Center. The Cubs are also currently ranked No. 2 in the Missouri Class 1, state rankings. The No. 2 seed in state and in the tournament, will be counting on the steady hands of Nick Niemczyk to re-
peat as champions.
The Notre Dame Bulldogs may also be poised for a run of their own. An impressive 28 point performance from 6-8 senior Ryan Willen in a win against Fredricktown, has added more interest to the tournament. Willen is back and healthy after missing five games with a stress fracture in his ankle. With Willen and running mate Austin Greer, who also missed a few games due to an injury, back in the lineup, the Bulldogs of Notre Dame have become one of the favorites to win it.
Also, the 5-2 Jackson Indians, who seem to always be a threat, have made it to the final four six times out of the last seven years. Winning it twice, once in 2003 and again in 2004.
There are a few intriguing, potential match-ups the way the bracket is set up this year. Arguably, the most compelling could possible be a second round match-up between the Scott Central Braves and No. 5 Notre Dame Bulldogs. Also, if the seedings stand true, a rematch of last years championship between the Bell City Cubs and the No. 3 Jackson Indians could happen in the semi-finals round.
As for a darkhorse, the No. 8 Oran Eagles could potentially saddle up and create some upsets throughout the tournament.
No. 7 Cape Central, No. 9 Leopold, No. 10 Woodland, No. 12 Advance, No. 14 Meadow Heights, No. 15 Oak Ridge round out the rest of the tournament field.
seMissourian Christmas Tournament schedule
>(1) Charleston vs. (16) Delta, 9 a.m.
>(2) Bell City vs. (15) Oak Ridge, 10:30 a.m.
>(3) Jackson vs. (14) Meadow Heights, noon
>(4) Scott Co. Central vs. (13) Chaffee, 1:30 p.m.
>(5) Notre Dame vs. (12) Advance, 4:30 p.m.
>(6) Scott City vs. (11) Kelly, 6 p.m. >(7) Cape Girardeau Central vs. (10) Woodland, 7:30 p.m.
>(8) Oran vs. (9) Leopold, 9 p.m.
>Consolation quarterfinals at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m.
>Championship quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m.
>Ninth-place semifinals at noon, 1:30 p.m.
>Fifth-place semifinals at 3 p.m., 4:30 p.m.
>Championship semifinals at 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
>Ninth place, 3 p.m.
>Fifth place, 4:30 p.m.
>Third place, 6 p.m.
>Championship, 7:30 p.m.