Missouri has played its last regular-season game in Hearnes Center, but the building isn’t done with basketball.
The Show-Me Showdown starts at 9:15 a.m. today in Hearnes Center and continues all day. Sixteen Class 4 and Class 5 boys’ and girls’ basketball teams will compete in the state championship semifinals.
In Class 5 boys’ competition, Poplar Bluff’s Tyler Hansbrough, a 6-foot-9 junior center, will try to improve on the Mules’ fourth-place finish last year. Hansbrough has averaged 27.2 points and 11 rebounds this season and has pared his college choices to Duke, North Carolina, Florida and Missouri.
Poplar Bluff (23-6) will need Hansbrough’s skills when the Mules play Lafayette (27-3) at 7:55 p.m.
“You get to this level and you feel like you either have some great players or unbelievable team chemistry,” Jefferson City coach David Fox said. “We don’t have any all-stars on our team, so everybody plays a role.”
Jefferson City (24-3) plays Blue Springs (27-2) at 9:30 p.m.
The Jays’ Mark Ommen, their leading scorer with 13.6 points per game, missed 11 games with a broken arm earlier in the season, and Jefferson City rallied around its defense. With Ommen back in the lineup, Jefferson City continues to rely heavily on its strong defense.
“It’s gotten us through a lot of games as of late,” Fox said.
In Class 4 boys’ play, Dexter (23-6) plays in its first state tournament at 12:25 p.m. against Vashon, state champions three of the past four years.
Dwayne Polk, a guard and Saint Louis University recruit, leads the Wolverines in scoring at 14 points per game. Curtis Muse, a 6-10 center, and forward William Franklin, a Missouri football recruit, combine for 20.7 points and 16.7 rebounds per game.
This is not Kearney’s first trip to the Show-Me Showdown, but after a 40-year absence, it might feel like it for the Bulldogs (25-4).
Kearney plays defending state champion Ozark (26-4), which features Sam Singh, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound center, at 2 p.m.
Kearney has four starters who played on the Bulldogs’ football team, which won its second straight title this season.
“Our biggest strength has been our man-to-man defense,” Bulldogs coach Chuck Minor said.
In the Class 5 girls’ semifinals, best friends will play against each other when Rachel Pierson of Incarnate Word (27-2) and Illinois recruit Erin McCarthy of St. Joseph’s Academy (24-4) square off at 4:45 p.m.
“I think they identify with each other on a lot of the same issues,” St. Joseph’s coach Julie Matheny said. “Like being tall and playing basketball and knowing what its like to be a post player on whom your team relies on to score.”
Pierson and McCarthy, both juniors, met three years ago and have been close since. Pierson, 6-3, is 2 inches shorter than McCarthy but plays much more physically.
“They’re an extremely physical club,” Matheny said. “Their game plan is defense.”
Hickman (29-1), ranked No. 9 in USA Today’s poll, plays at 6:20 p.m. against Lee’s Summit (23-5), which boasts Illinois recruit Megan Nyquist.
“I think it’s going to be one of the best final fours that’s been down here in a while,” Matheny said. “Any given team could come back with the state championship.”
In the Class 4 girls semifinals, Republic, the only team to defeat Hickman, will play Center (18-11) at 10:50 a.m.
Duchesne, which returns four starters from last year’s state championship team, takes on St. James (25-3) at 9:15 a.m. Missouri recruit Brittany Mannings, a 6-3 center, and Abby Goellner, a 6-0 guard, give Duchesne (26-3) a potent one-two punch.