Hickman and Rock Bridge set for district boys basketball tournament

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:17 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 24, 2010

COLUMBIA — Hickman and Troy Buchanan boys basketball fans might find themselves cheering for the wrong team at some point on Wednesday.

The two teams are confusingly similar. Both rely on a three-man offensive attack, are strong from 3-point range and wear the colors purple and gold.

Class 5, District 9 schedule

Monday’s game
Holt 49, Timberland 41
Wednesday’s games
Rock Bridge vs. Holt, 5:30 p.m.
Hickman vs. Troy Buchanan, 7 p.m.
Friday’s game
Championship, 7:30 p.m.

“We’ve had problems throughout the year throwing it to the other team, but not because of their uniforms,” Hickman coach John Burns said.

The No. 2 seed Kewpies (16-8) and the No. 3 seed Trojans (18-8) are set to meet in the semifinals of the Class 5, District 9 tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Troy.

Last year, Hickman beat Troy 54-51 in the semifinals. However, this year, the Kewpies play an away game, something Burns said is a challenge.

“Not only is it the host team, but it’s a proud town that is proud of its athletics,” Burns said. “That’s what makes it challenging, not to mention a good basketball team on top of that.”

Like Hickman, three players lead Troy’s offense. Entering the tournament, guard Cullen Devins was scoring 15.9 points a game, followed by guard Neil Branham (14.7) and forward Allen McKinney (14.1). Devins and Branham are prolific 3-point shooters and made a combined 99 3-pointers in the regular season.

“Anytime you are facing shooters, they can get hot, and that’s a scary hot, because they can get hot at any time,” Burns said.

But with hot also comes cold, Burns said, and making Troy’s shooters work for their shots will be vital in Hickman’s game plan.

Troy's top-three scorers average 44.7 points per game. Burns said keeping them below 40 is necessary to “at least give us a better chance to win.”

The Kewpies, who are led by guards Lyle Harris (18.9 points per game), Marcus Whitt (13.8) and Jordan Stevens (13.8), think they can do just that.

“I expect to win, because I know we can do it,” Harris said. “But we got to go out there and do it.”

Hickman will be trying to win its first district tournament since 2003. The Kewpies have proven they can succeed in the tournament format, winning the Marshall Shoot-Out and the Dave Sinclair Lindbergh Tournament in St. Louis.

“My biggest concern at the beginning of the year was if we were going to get better,” Burns said “And I know we have.”

Burns said he wants his team to play with urgency, which he thinks is necessary for any team playing in a potentially season-ending game.

“The problem is I don’t think it really sinks in until it’s over with,” Burns said. “If only you just realize the moment is here. You are playing for it all right now.”

An hour and a half before the Kewpies' game, top-seed Rock Bridge (20-5) faces No. 4 seed Holt (19-7) on the other side of the bracket.

Holt is on a 10-game winning streak but lost to Troy twice earlier in the season. Holt's standout player is forward Dantiel Daniels, who averages 17.9 points and 10.6 rebounds a game and has 94 blocked shots this season.

The Bruins, who beat Hickman in the finals last year, have won the district tournament three years in a row. Last season, Rock Bridge beat Holt 71-44 in the semifinals.

The winners of both games will play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Troy.

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