After a few weeks of Christmas tournaments and a few season-opener invitationals, the high school basketball season is well underway.
I've had my share of checking out the likes of the Scott Central vs. Bell City barn-burner in the Oran Invitational, 75-72, where Ronnie Cookson's Scott Central Braves couldn't find an answer for the Cubs' Nick Niemcyzk, who put up 32 points in the victory. There wasn't an empty seat in the house, as all of the locals showed up to support their own respective teams in the instant classic.
Niemcyzk has one of the hottest hands when it comes to shooting the rock. I look for him to provide some damage down the road for Bell City.
The biggest game, by far, I've seen this season, was the one where the "records were thrown out" as the Bluejays came to town, and Sikeston handed them the loss by a score of 56-47, and recorded their first home win against Charleston since the 1999-2000 season.
Sikeston's Michael Porter is definitely the player on the radar when opposing teams are watching film, but Sherwin Jones and Brandon Washington are two other players that would be plenty of reason to pay the $3 fee to watch the Bulldogs run the court. Jones and Washington provided fans quite an entertaining weekend in the Poplar Bluff Showdown, as they rocked the rim a few times and posterized a few players. Porter also had his share of what we in the news room call the "daily dunk" for Sikeston.
I look for the red-and-black Bulldogs to keep the train rolling right along in the win column, as they were victorious over Fredericktown Tuesday, and now look ahead to Scott City on Friday evening, where they look to avenge their upset loss from last season. Head coach Gregg Holifield has established a winning attitude in his players, and oversees the high-flying offense which has conquered the likes of Maplewood, Charleston and the Bleacher Bums favorite, the other Bulldogs of Notre Dame, twice. Keep in mind that ND's leading scorer Ryan Willen wasn't present, but they'll get their shot at him in districts if things go as planned. It will be worth the entry fee.
Another great highlight of this season, has been the NMCC Eagles, who after coming off of a spectacular football season, got off to a slow start, but have cruised to four straight victories, behind the stellar play of Kony Ealy and Lance Price.
Mimicking the Bulldogs, NMCC put a ton of pressure on the guards of Charleston on Tuesday night, and were able to hold tight for the victory late in the fourth quarter. Ealy and Price were a huge part of the win, as both led in scoring and stepped up when they were well-needed from their teammates.
NMCC head coach Travis Day said he challenged Ealy to step up and play his game and be physical against Charleston's tough big men, Brian Parham and Donald Dixon. Ealy answered the call, as both were held to just seven points combined in the first half, thanks in part to his physical play down in the low-post. Look for Ealy to help guide the Eagles in a late push towards districts. The Eagles are starting to enjoy the winning feeling as they welcome in Cape Central on Friday evening.
On the girls court, the Lady Bobcats of Delta seem to be the team to beat, as they've wrapped up titles in the Chaffee Lady Devils Tournament, as well as their own New Year's Tournament. Sara Blattel has become a scoring machine for Delta, as they now look to top their opponents in the Scott-Miss Tournament currently going on at Scott Central.
The Kelly Lady Hawks have battled injuries early in the season, as Katee Moore was never able to begin the season, after having season-ending shoulder surgery, and defensive prowess Sarah Ruff also went down for the season, due to a torn ACL that required surgery to end her senior season. Each will be missed come district time for Kelly.
The Lady Hawks look to rebound from the setbacks behind head coach Rod McQuerter as they face Chaffee in the Scott-Miss Tournament tonight at 5 p.m. Kelly looks to Londyn Backfisch, Kayla Cissell and Debra Hall to guide the way back to another district title run, where they'll have to go through Portageville, who has already handed them a loss earlier in the season.
The season is shaping up, as we're finding out which teams are "pretenders" and which are "contenders." The road ahead is winding and sure to provide some great entertainment as we count down the weeks until districts, which are penciled in on the calendar for the last week of February and the first week of March. Keep your eyes peeled to the Standard Democrat for all of the latest scores and highlights, and as always, best of luck to all teams from me, at the sports desk.