COLUMBIA — The cancellation of the Hickman boys basketball team's final regular season game — senior night — elicited a reaction even from Cecil Williams, the Kewpies' normally stoic senior forward.
Williams wrote a response to the Hickman athletic department's tweet announcing last Friday's game against Eldon was being called off because of the snowstorm. Two words, all capital letters.
"I was (mad)," he said. "I still am. They better reschedule that. They need to."
Unfortunately for Williams, that game isn't going to be rescheduled, not with the Kewpies beginning play in the Class 5 District 9 Tournament this week.
The top-seeded Kewpies will face the Camdenton Lakers on Friday in their first game. Camdenton beat Smith-Cotton on Monday in the matchup of the two lowest-seeded teams.
The Kewpies haven't played the Lakers this season, but Camdenton has a losing record and beat Smith-Cotton (a team Hickman routed 85-44) by just three points. And after they compiled the best record in the district, the Kewpies are hosting the game and tournament on their home court. It's easy to pick out the favorite.
But Hickman coach David Johnson isn't listening to any of that.
"We know that right now, you know, all hands on deck," he said. "...We know that we have to play that game. We know that we're going to have to come out and play tough and hard because right now, the season is everybody is undefeated at this stage. Everybody's 0-0, zero wins, zero losses, as far as we're concerned."
Although the team has experienced a fairly long layoff since its last game, which was Feb. 12 at Lebanon, Johnson said he had no concerns about the break negatively affecting the Kewpies. He said he has been running physically intense practices, drilling game situations and holding film sessions to help the team stay sharp.
"The snow days kind of threw us a little bit off rhythm, but I felt like we're kind of back on track now with the practice that we had today," Johnson said.
Johnson said the Kewpies' game plan will stay mostly the same. They will try to nix a slower start to help them "feel out" the other team and focus on setting their favored high tempo from the opening tip-off.
In fact, junior guard Chris Clark attributes Hickman's loss to Truman, one of the two the team has suffered this season, largely to a sluggish beginning.
The positioning of the teams in the bracket raises the possibility for the Kewpies of a third game against Rock Bridge, who faces Jefferson City in its first tournament game. While the teams' records favor the Bruins, they will have to overcome the loss of star point guard Nick Norton to a torn ACL.
That game would most likely be tightly contested, given the drama of the two other times the rivals have played this season. And it's exactly the matchup Clark and Williams want.
"Both of them (Rock Bridge and Jefferson City) are, I'd say, respectable teams, but we like Rock Bridge, just as our crosstown rival," Williams said.
The team's goal since the beginning of the season has been to make it to where they play at Mizzou Arena, the site of the semifinals and finals.
For Williams, who has suited up for varsity all four years he's been at Hickman, the tournament represents his last chance at that goal.
He said he has never been part of a team as highly touted as this year's squad, the first No. 1 seed that he's been on. Senior night or none, this is his final postseason ride.