By Lee Richardson

Fast Break Hoops Report - February 26, 2022

March Madness is right around the corner, but before we get to that (and hopefully March-like weather) we’ve got some February Madness with all of the MSHSAA District Tournament action going on around the state. In today’s “Fast Break” Hoops Report, I’ll review some of the action going on from STL and parts south and some of what to expect in coming weeks.

Class 2 District 4 at Crystal City
BOYS - In Friday’s semifinals, Valle Catholic beat Bismarck 82-39 while New Haven defeated the host Hornets 38-33. This sets up the championship where I’d expect an athletic and strong Valle to win but they must be able to disrupt a disciplined New Haven Shamrocks squad. Big time shout out to my boys Nate Pruneau and Calloway Dashner who last night closed out their fine careers at Crystal City and who I was lucky to coach their freshman and sophomore seasons.

GIRLS - New Haven vs Valle Catholic tonight, I have NH winning this one.

Class 3 District 3 at West County
BOYS - It’s a battle of a couple of my coaching friends when Paul Hamilton’s #1 seed Kingston Cougars take on Nathan Walk and his #2 seed Greenville Bears. It’s been a pretty special season for both of them and they are similar to each other in a lot of ways. Kingston has a great post in Matt Nelson and the most explosive player in the district in sophomore Cody Yates, while Greenville has a couple of tough guards and 6-3 sophomore Trey Porter is a mountain in the post with great touch. The winner gets to come up my direction for next Wednesday’s state sectional played at Parkway West.

GIRLS - West County vs Grandview
At the C3D4 girls championship last night, I saw Coach Tim Winkler of the Grandview Lady Eagles doing his due diligence last night scouting his next potential opponent if they can win this district. But first, he knows they’re in for a big challenge playing the #7 state-ranked team in class 3 in West County, on their home floor. They also have nothing to lose and their best player, 6-2 junior Anna Belle Wakeland (my pick for JCAA Girls Small POY) is playing her best basketball right now.

Class 3 District 4 at Bishop DuBourg
BOYS - The semi finals were played last night and the host #1 seed Bishop DuBourg beat McKinley 54-46, while the Nate Ruble era at St. Pius is sadly over as they suffered a 39-32 loss to Carnahan. The championship game of this district will be played tonight and will be aired on Live Stream STL with Ray Halbrook Scott Latta Jeff Whitener beginning at 5:45 pm. St. Pius closes out an otherwise successful season for Coach Chris Miller with an 18-9 record and a JCAA Small Conference Championship. I do look for Bishop DuBourg and their outstanding rookie head coach Darian Head to get the chip tonight over a nice Carnahan squad.

GIRLS - Congratulations go out to the St. Pius Lady Lancers as they take this district championship with a 40-24 win vs. Bishop DuBourg. Coach Aaron Portell’s squad now waits to see if their sectional opponent will be West County or Grandview, whichever wins C3D3.

Class 4 District 2 at St. Genevieve
BOYS - This one kicks off today with two games - #3 Potosi plays #6 Hancock, a likely big Potosi victory, and #5 Herculaneum plays #4 Fredericktown. This one could be a down to the wire slugfest. Fred beat Herky boys at the Central Christmas tournament back in December but it could easily be the other way around this time and I look for Coach Jason Jarvis to make some good adjustments. JCAA Small POY candidate Gabe Watkins will be the key for the Blackcats. The winner of this game gets the prize of facing #1 seed Park Hills Central in the semis. I have Central ultimately winning this district, while my buddy Jacob Hedgcorth has St. Gen and he could very well be right.

GIRLS - The Herky girls are the 4 seed in this one and are playing good basketball late in the season. They have a pretty even matchup with Notre Dame (St. Louis) this morning - the two have split a pair of games - and the winner of that plays the Park Hills Central ladies on Tuesday. Macey Pilliard has had a fine senior campaign in the post, the Blackcat guards like Maddie Lawson and Sam Maddox play intense defense, and Kyrsten Britton has found her shooting stroke. I like them to survive and advance in this first round matchup. Good luck to Riley D Blair Jr. and the ladies. I also think Central will be really tough for anyone to dethrone here.

Class 4 District 4
BOYS - I expect #2 seed Confluence Prep to upset the #1 seed Lift for Life and win this championship. An interesting matchup in the first round features close rivals Affton playing a resurgent Bayless for the right to face L4L in the semis. The winner of this district likely beats the C4D3 winner in sectionals and will face what will likely be New Madrid Central in a Quarterfinal at Jefferson College on March 12th (Live Stream STL coverage).

GIRLS - This is the Lutheran South district, where they are the #2 seed and on an absolute tear late in the season. The roster is stacked with talented sophomores such as Ellie Buscher, a do-everything 5-10 forward, and valuable 6th girl Savannah Butterfield, and is led by tough seniors like Amy Ceko and Kate Ranson. They beat Westminster (a possible favorite to win the Class 4 state championship if they can make it past John Burroughs in C4D6) a few weeks ago in convincing fashion. They will probably head to a rematch in the championship game with #1 seed Ursuline Academy (LSSTL coverage on March 4th), who beat LuSo earlier this season but it was a much different Lady Lancer squad at that time. I have Lutheran South and Coach Ben Ealick winning this district and moving on to sectionals where they will likely face either Owensville or St. James. If they are fortunate enough to get a win there, we will see them in a Quarterfinal game over at Jefferson College on March 12th which will also be covered on Live Stream STL.

Class 5 District 1 at DeSoto
BOYS - This tournament starts today and while it might not feature an overwhelming amount of top-end talent (see C5D3 Boys), it’s as deep with teams 1-7 as you’ll find anywhere in the state. Festus, having a great season at 19-5 and undefeated conference champions of the JCAA Large, is the #2 seed and plays #7 Farmington. While they beat the Black Knights earlier this year, this is a decent Farm squad and it won’t be a cakewalk but I see a win on Saturday for Coach Jason Therrell and the crew of Rickermann, Branch, Westhoff, Ruess, and so on. Assuming all of the top 3 seeds win today, the semi finals next Tuesday would be two REALLY good games - Cape Central vs. North County/Hillsboro, and Festus vs. Sikeston. This is one to watch, and while Cape Central is the favorite, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think that any of the top 5 teams could pull this out and Windsor sitting at #6 could put up a good fight vs. Sikeston, who’s been a little up and down this year.

GIRLS - Mirroring the boys’ side, the top two teams here could win a state championship, the next three are super high quality, and even some of the bottom four have talent - especially the #7 seed Hillsboro, who has made big strides under Coach Andrew Hubbard and is a team to watch in the future. Tons of talent here with lots of future college players in the gym, including Karris Allen of #4 Sikeston who has signed with Western Kentucky. It’s really anybody’s guess whether #1 Farmington, #2 Cape Notre Dame, or even #3 North County (all ranked top 10 in the state) will come out of this district, but they will be great matchups and I will stay with my pick of Cape ND that I revealed on last Sunday’s Fast Break show on Live Stream STL.

Class 5 District 2 at Webster Groves
BOYS - #1 seed Webster Groves boys are having a great year, and lost a close one to Class 4 state champ favorite Vashon on Friday night, but face some stiff competition from #2 Vianney, and #3 St. Mary’s and #4 St. Francis Borgia aren’t chopped liver either. A little birdie tells me that Live Stream STL may be broadcasting this championship game next Saturday, March 5th so stay tuned for updates there.

GIRLS - #1 seed Webster Groves is very much in the conversation for a state championship in class 5 and I’m going out on a limb and saying they’ll get that done. In this district, Lift for Life girls are the #2 seed and have received votes in the state rankings, but may not have enough to upset the likes of Eliza Maupin, Ellie Paloucek, and Sophia Nittinger for WG. The Statesmen will play whoever comes out of C5D1, and a matchup with that winner will be good, and then a looming quarterfinal matchup vs. Whitfield (who will come out of C5D3) would be in my eyes the Class 5 state championship game. Which again, I’m gonna take WG and Coach Josh Spuhl to take it after finishing as the state runner ups in Class 6 last season.

Class 5 District 3 at Westminster
BOYS - This has to be one of the best and most competitive districts ever seen in state history, and I bet old timers would have to think about it for a while to come up with one that was ever tougher. #1 seed Westminster (24-1) has had an epic season, including beating the #1 team in Class 4 (Vashon) and the #3 team in Class 6 (CBC), and is ranked #1 in the state in Class 5, but #2 seed DeSmet and #3 seed Cardinal Ritter are tremendous teams having great years and are both ranked top 5 in the state. Three top 5 teams in the state in one district. Unreal. But, call me crazy, I have a feeling that DeSmet is something of a team of destiny and is going to come out of this district of death. I’m a big fan of point guard Brian Taylor and the Duffs can shoot the lights out. Also, former Farmington star Isaiah Robinson has been a key contributor. And oh, that one loss Westminster has this year…yep, it’s to the DeSmet Spartans.

Class 6 District 1 at SLUH
#2 Jackson (SEMO)
#3 Poplar Bluff (SEMO)
#4 Lindbergh (south STL County)
#5 Oakville (south STL County)
#6 Seckman (Jefferson County)
#7 Northwest-Cedar Hill (Jefferson County)
#8 Fox (Jefferson County)

SLUH should win this. Seckman has had a pretty decent season but the Jefferson County schools are obviously fighting for air in this type of crowd.

Class 6 District 2 at CBC
BOYS - The #3 ranked team in the state is CBC, and I not only think they’ll win this district, I believe they are going to be a part of the STL Sweep of all six boys and girls state champions in Classes 4-6 this year. Shout out to my good friend Harrison Brumley who is on staff there and good luck to the Cadets.

It was a pretty entertaining week of hoops this last one and it’s only going to get better from here. If you have any thoughts, wanna talk about another district somewhere else, or think I got a prediction wrong let me hear it! We’ll see you at the gym!

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