The best high school basketball teams in Missouri are in Columbia again.
This is the 14th straight year the Missouri State High School Activities Association will hold its basketball championships in the home of the Missouri Tigers, but this year there are a few differences.
The teams will no longer play in expansive Hearnes Center and vie for the chance to be placed in the MU men’s basketball locker room.
This year the event is moving to Mizzou Arena, and the change will provide this year’s final four teams with an experience their predecessors couldn’t have.
Roger Crumpton is the manager of the Mizzou Arena and said he can’t wait to see the look on the players’ faces when they walk into the arena for the first time.
“They’re going to come in, look around and be kind of awestruck Crumpton said.
Fans could also be awestruck by the play on the court.
One of the most anticipated games of the year could come in the Class 5 boys’ championship.
Friday’s semifinals include No. 1 Vashon (St. Louis) playing No. 2 Kickapoo (Springfield) and No. 3 Poplar Bluff against Rockhurst. If the two favorites, Vashon and Poplar Bluff, win their games, it would produce a final where the No. 1 team in the USA Today national poll, Vashon, matches up against the most highly-touted recruit in Missouri, Tyler Hansbrough of Poplar Bluff.
Vashon, which has a 59-game winning streak, is the alma mater of MU junior Jimmy McKinney, and Tiger point guard Spencer Laurie attended Kickapoo.
The first game of the tournament will be the boys’ Class 4 semifinal at 9 a.m. between O’Hara and Notre Dame, one of the most surprising teams in the state championships. The Bulldogs from Cape Girardeau are 14-16 and beat two top ten teams in regional and sectional play to reach the final four.
The girls’ basketball team from Kickapoo also made it to the state semifinals and will play No. 2 Incarnate Word Academy in Friday’s last game at 9:15 p.m.
Each day will be broken down into sessions. The first session will be for Class 4 boys’ and girls’ games, and the second session is for Class 5 boys’ and girls’.
Once the first session is over, all fans must exit the arena and re-enter with a new ticket.
Admission to each session is $6 per person.
The boys’ and girls’ Class 5 championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Midwest on Saturday. The boys’ final is at 8:05 p.m. and the girls’ is at 6:30 p.m.