When the Hickman Kewpies lost eight seniors from last year’s state runner-up girls’ basketball team, they also lost their spot in the top basketball tournament in the state.
The KTXR Tournament at Drury University in Springfield invites the best teams from across the country to compete, but the Kewpies were not asked back this season.
“For the girls, it’s the most elite tournament in the state of Missouri,” coach Tonya Mirts said. “With us graduating all those kids, we were not invited back.”
The Kewpies are filling the opening in their schedule with the Ameritime-Maryville University Tournament in St. Louis this week. In the eight-team tournament, the seventh-seeded Kewpies are guaranteed three games.
“I think it’s good for our kids to be in the St. Louis area playing (Class 5) teams,” Mirts said. “Obviously, it’s a very good tournament.”
Mirts said she doesn’t think going to St. Louis three times in four days will affect her team.
“We’re used to traveling,” she said. “It’s a part of us playing basketball here (as an independent school).”
Hickman (9-11) plays in the first round at 6:30 p.m. today against Jefferson City.
“It’s a big game for us in the sense of district seeds,” Mirts said. “It’s huge.”
According to Mirts, she doesn’t think the rivalry with Jefferson City is a love-hate relationship.
“I think our Jeff City rivalry is more of a respect one,” she said. “I think it’s just two good basketball teams in the same area, and obviously you want to play the best and win.”
The game, however, is one that the players and coaching staff look forward to.
“It’s Jeff City; they’re huge for us,” senior Megan McCabe said. “It’s a game that we’ve had circled for a long time.”
The Kewpies could be without two of their post players when they face the Jays.
Junior Callie Johnson and sophomore Shana White could both miss the game due to illness.
“Honestly, I don’t know (if they will play),” Mirts said. “I hope so. What we used today for was to get some other kids better than they were yesterday. We’re going to go play regardless of who is here. That’s why we’re a team.”
Even though winning is the first priority, Mirts would like to use this time to continue improving her team.
“We’re trying to get a little bit better offensively,” she said. “We’re really stressing that. We’re trying to sharpen up there and we hope to be able to see that in this tournament.”
Hickman also faces the Jays next Tuesday at home.
The tournament, which runs from Tuesday through Saturday, has two new teams this year. Charlie Kennedy, the organizer of the event, said that Hickman and Hancock replaced Parkway West and Jackson in the bracket.
Kennedy said the invitational is the fundraiser for the Maryville University softball team.