NEW MADRID - The Class 3, District 1 Boys and Girls Tournament will be in full swing this week with all games being played at New Madrid County Central High School.
On the boys side, the first round will tip off on Monday. Charleston (22-3) earned the No. 1 seed and will face the Caruthersville Tigers at 4 p.m. East Prairie (17-8) garnered the No. 4 seed and will battle No. 5 seed Kelly (9-15) at 5:30 p.m.
The Scott City Rams got the second seed in the district and will play No. 7 Kennett Indians at 7 p.m. In the final game of the first round, No. 3 seed Portageville (16-7) will challenge host and No. 6 seed NMCC (5-18) at 8:30 p.m.
Charleston enters the tournament on a 11-game winning streak. The Bluejays last lost on Jan. 5 to the Sikeston Bulldogs. The other two losses have been to top ranked competition. Charleston fell to Bell City (20-4) in the seMissourian Christmas Tournament. The Cubs are currently ranked No. 3 in Class 1.
The Bluejays first loss of the year came back in December at the Perryville Shootout to Webster Groves (24-2). The Statesman are currently ranked No. 6 in Class 5.
Playoff basketball has been the bread and butter for Charleston the last couple of years. The 'Jays finished in third place in Class 3 in 2003 and 2004. The last two seasons, Charleston has made the championship game only to lose to Lutheran North (72-63) in '05 and Cardinal Ritter (67-55) last year.
"The guys seem to develop a new focus around this time of the year," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "I am seeing a whole different team the last couple of days of practice. The kids are working hard and getting ready to make a run."
It has been a difficult season for Caruthersville. They have played all of their games on the road this season due to a tornado that ravaged the town last April, destroying the high school gymnasium. In addition, the team's roster has been decimated due to grades and other off the court issues. Currently, the varsity team is made up of mostly junior varsity players.
"Caruthersville has had a tough year and they have lost some real good talent off their team," said Farmer. "So with no disrespect to them, we have been looking hard at the winner of East Prairie and Kelly. East Prairie does present some problems with their press, but Kelly gave them a good run for their money a couple of weeks ago. While some teams are having a down year, the district is still very tough. New Madrid plays real physical and aggressive and Scott City has a good ball club. We have to come out and play. We just won't be handed the trophy."
Charleston is a senior laden team led by Justin Clark (6-4), Shawn Sherrell (5-9) and Jamarcus Williams (6-5). Clark leads the team with 18 points per game. Sherrell is a speedy point guard with superior defensive skills and is averaging 14 points, six assists and four steals.
Williams spent the majority of the season trying to recover form a broken leg suffered late in the football season. While it took Williams a while to get back into basketball shape, his play of late has been outstanding. For the year, Williams is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Portageville has lost close games recently to Charleston and Scott City in preparation for district play. The Bulldogs will face an NMCC team that they beat at home 61-47 a couple of weeks ago. While they won by 14 points, the Eagles gave Portageville all they wanted.
"We won't have an easy game this entire tournament," said Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell. "We can win it all or lose our first game, it is a pretty even tournament. Charleston might be a little head and shoulders above everybody else, but it is going to be a tough road if we make it to the finals."
The Bulldogs are led by seniors Trey Mosby (5-10) and Marcus Greene (6-2). Freshman Kony Ealy (6-5) provides quality rebounding and a post presence for Portageville.
NMCC comes into districts limping having lost eight of its last nine games. The Eagles might have struggled throughout the year, but first year head coach Travis Day believes it is now a new chapter.
"It is a new season starting on Monday," said Day. "We are 0-0 like everybody else. We can turn around a tough regular season, into a great year with a little run in the post season. We dug ourselves a hole early in the first quarter against Portageville the last time we played them. From that point forward, we played right with them. The kids were a little nervous at their place and now we will have them at home. We know what to expect from our crowd. The guys are looking for a better performance this time against Portageville."
Kelly and East Prairie will meet for a third time in the first round of districts. The Eagles have won the first two games by a total of 11 points. The Hawks are led by a solid senior frontcourt with Spencer Ayers (6-3), Zach Hamm (6-6) and Dallas Tew (6-2). Sharp-shooter Kyle Thurman (5-9) is Kelly's main 3-point threat.
Junior forward Tony Jones (6-2) leads East Prairie with 18 points and 14 rebounds per game. Senior backcourt mates Paris Tipler and Randy Woods are averaging 16 points apiece.
"It is just the scary factor playing Kelly for a third time," said East Prairie head coach Matt Schonhoff. "We don't have a lot of room for error playing them. The guys are playing well of late and hopefully it will carry over to Monday."
The semifinals are set for Thursday at 6 and 7:30 p.m. The finals will tip at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at NMCC.
On the girls side, their first round tipped off on Saturday. Results were not available at press time. Kelly (20-6) earned the No. 1 seed and played the eighth seed East Prairie Lady Eagles. Caruthersville got the No. 4 seed and played fifth seeded Scott City.
Kelly has a balanced lineup led by sophomore Debra Hall (5-11). Senior point guard Brittany Ponder is the floor general for the Lady Hawks and junior Sarah Ruff provides solid defensive intensity. Kelly usually goes eight deep on the bench and receives quality minutes from Kayla Cissell and Lauren Gean.
"It is going to be a very competitive district," said Kelly head coach Rod McQuerter. "It is going to be a toss up who will be the champion. As always, for our girls to be successful we have to play hard and with a positive attitude. It is definitely going to be an exciting tournament."
Portageville (19-6) faced Kennett in the first round. The Lady Bulldogs are led in scoring by junior forward Kellye Penn who is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game.
Senior guard Hannah Rone drives the team with her intensity. Rone averages 13 points, four assists and three steals per game for the Lady Bulldogs. Sophomore guard Brittney Walker has come on strong averaging 10 points, five rebounds and four steals per game.
Off the bench for Portageville, Jeleea Drake (6-0) brings in solid minutes. Drake is averaging nine points and eight rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs could have a possible second round matchup with NMCC, if they defeat Charleston in their first round matchup.
The Lady Eagles boast two promising freshmen in guard Shameka Williams and forward Jasmine Flennoy. Add in senior forward Heavenly Wren and NMCC will be a very tough out for Portageville.
"New Madrid is improving and will be a tough challenge if we meet in the second round," said Portageville head coach Eric Ellerbrook. "It is going to be a tough tournament. Kelly has a great program. They worked hard on defense and move the ball well on offense. We might be the underdog coming in because we our the two seed, but we proved last Monday that we can play with Kelly."
The semifinals are set for Tuesday at 6 and 7:30 p.m. The finals will tip on Friday at 6 p.m.