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Boys Basketball Preview

Boys Basketball Preview: Roster turnover may trigger power shift

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A combination of graduation, offseason injuries and outgoing transfers could result in a serious power shift among boys basketball teams in the MAAA Large-School division this winter.

North County parted with its two top offensive players, and Valle Catholic bid farewell to its career scoring leader after both schools won conference and district titles before reaching the state quarterfinals.

Central and Ste. Genevieve battled for a spot in the state playoffs, and figure to challenge for the league title this time around as Farmington regroups from losing its three starting forwards.

West County and Kingston have the most returning experience among the Small-School rosters, and Arcadia Valley seeks to rebuild quickly after giving the MAAA a fourth district title in 2020-21.

Eight of the 20 all-conference players from last season are back, including five First Team performers.

CENTRAL Rebels

2020-21 Record: 15-11 (2-3)

Head Coach: Brad Gross – 2nd season

Key Returning Players: Jobe Bryant, soph., G; Kendall Horton, jr., F; Caden Casey, soph., G; Grant Manion, sr., G; Zack Boyd, soph., F

Season Outlook:

Central was only a few plays away from perhaps finishing much higher in the conference standings, but put everything together when necessary to earn a district championship against rival Ste. Genevieve.

And with the best player in the MAAA returning to lead the charge, the Rebels should capitalize on a collective year of experience to become the early league frontrunners.

Jobe Bryant amassed more than 500 points as an all-state freshman, and his fast first step from the perimeter forces constant concern from multiple opposing defenders.

Fellow sophomore guard Caden Casey, junior forward Kendall Horton and senior guard Grant Manion make Central especially explosive in transition while also knocking down outside shots.

The Rebels suffered an unfortunate setback when all-conference guard Mason Williams tore an ACL just a few weeks ago, but help will arrive from an excellent junior varsity squad.

Forwards Zack Boyd and Triston Stewart can alleviate a general lack of height across the roster with physical play. Sophomore guard Kannon Harlow scored 35 points last year against the Potosi varsity.

STE. GENEVIEVE Dragons

2020-21 Record: 16-9 (4-1)

Head Coach: Rob Coleman – 15th season

Key Returning Players: Ricky Hunter, jr., G; Blake Morganthaler, sr., G: Rudy Flieg, sr., F; Aiden Boyer, jr., F; Thomas O’Brien, sr., G; Klayton Squires, sr., G

Season Outlook:

Ste. Genevieve has maintained an admirable level of stability with head coach Rob Coleman at the helm over the past 15 seasons.

The Dragons have repeatedly floated within that second tier of solid MAAA programs, and may have the personnel to finally reach the top of the Large-School division.

A season-opening tournament title in Sullivan showed the potential possessed by Ste. Genevieve, which also won the regular-season clash at Central before the Rebels got even in the district rematch.

Junior Ricky Hunter and senior Blake Morganthaler are lethal perimeter shooters, and bolster a defense that heavily relies on snug, fundamental man-to-man pressure.

All-MAAA forward Aiden Boyer provides an athletic post with enough range to hit shots from the deep baseline and wings. Rudy Flieg represents the gritty aspect of the Dragons with physical play inside.

FARMINGTON Knights

2020-21 Record: 18-8 (3-2)

Head Coach: Garrett Callahan – 1st season

Key Returning Players: Bracey Blanton, sr., G; J.P. Ruble, sr., G; Hunter Cole, sr., F; Brenan Schaper, sr., G; Jeris Files, sr., G

Season Outlook:

Former standout guard Garrett Callahan has been promoted to take over a Farmington program that bares minimal resemblance to last year’s mix of size versatility at five positions.

The returning guard tandem of Bracey Blanton and J.P. Ruble may only be matched in the conference by Central regarding the entire package of shooting, slashing, defending and passing.

But opponents no longer have to deal with a pair of athletic 6-foot-7 threats inside. Isaiah Robinson has transferred to DeSmet while Jonah Burgess and all-conference forward Jacob Jarvis have graduated.

Three other seniors – Hunter Cole, Brenan Schaper and Jeris Files – played sparingly last winter as the Knights incorporated a six-man rotation in most situations.

NORTH COUNTY Raiders

2020-21 Record: 24-2 (5-0)

Head Coach: Jimmy Palmer – 8th season

Key Returning Players: Jobe Smith, jr., G; Nolan Reed, sr., F; Kooper Kekec, jr., G; Andrew Civey, jr., F

Season Outlook:

Once Karter Kekec recovered from a leg injury and was joined Kyle Conkright as an explosive guard tandem last January, North County was steadily on course to achieve school history.

The Raiders were loaded with senior talent, and secured their first district crown since 1995 before topping Sikeston for their first-ever state playoff victory.

The shelf isn’t completely bare for head coach Jimmy Palmer, but his style of relentless full-court pressure defense will naturally fall into the hands of some less experienced players.

Elusive junior guard Jobe Smith and powerful rebounding forward Nolan Reed will lead North County once their current state playoff push in football concludes.

Andrew Civey figures more prominently into the mix near the basket, and fellow returning junior Kooper Kekec serves as an effective pest defensively for opposing guards.

VALLE CATHOLIC Warriors

2020-21 Record: 20-9 (5-0)

Head Coach: Tyler Search – 5th season

Key Returning Players: Chase Fallert, jr., G; Aiden Heberlie, sr., F; Nathan Schwent, sr., G; Clayton Drury, jr., G; Sam Drury, jr., G; Harry Oliver, jr., F; Carson Tucker, jr., F; Michael Okenfuss, sr., F

Season Outlook:

Valle Catholic surged all the way to the Class 2 quarterfinal round, and gave Campbell a tough battle at home before ultimately being eliminated by the eventual state champions.

The Warriors will reset following the graduation of all-time scoring leader Carter Hoog, but have a strong core of players back to defend their MAAA Small-School conference and district titles.

Junior and three-year starter Chase Fallert runs the show from the point, and future Missouri baseball player Aiden Heberlie causes an athletic headache and rebounding force in the paint.

Harry Oliver also started at forward last season while Carson Tucker, Nathan Schwent and Clayton Drury contributed off the bench.

Talented guard and outside defender Sam Drury suffered a serious injury in September that wiped out the remainder of his football season.

FREDERICKTOWN Blackcats

2020-21 Record: 11-13 (0-5)

Head Coach: Joaby Sikes – 5th season

Key Returning Players: Andrew Starkey, jr., G; Cohlbe Dunnahoo, sr,. F; Matthew Starkey, sr., F; Lane Sikes, sr., G; Jerry Couch, sr., F

Season Outlook:

Fredericktown is 10 years removed from the last winning season, but some important pieces are in place for a potential upward trend.

The Blackcats finished a disappointing conference schedule winless last winter, but returns four starters and most of its scoring production.

Junior guard Andrew Starkey is again the most dangerous weapon with varsity experience, and should have plenty of help inside from brother Matthew Starkey and athletic senior Cohlbe Dunnahoo.

Senior guard Lane Sikes is also back for a team that enters next week’s Arcadia Valley Thanksgiving Tournament as the No. 3 seed and needs to quickly develop depth off the bench.

WEST COUNTY Bulldogs

2020-21 Record: 7-12 (3-2)

Head Coach: Chris LaBruyere – 11th season

Key Returning Players: Matthew Menzel, sr., G; Mason Simily, sr., F; Michael Simily, sr., F; Garrisson Turner, soph., G; Caden Merrill, jr., C; Jase Campbell, sr., F

Season Outlook:

West County lost a few seniors to graduation, but plenty of optimism remains with a large majority of its offensive leaders ready to lead a hopeful resurgence.

The challenge for the Bulldogs will be maintaining discipline and intensity for the full 32 minutes. They showed signs of excellence while building a big lead over Ste. Genevieve last before fading at home December.

Garrisson Turner paced the scoring several times as a freshman with impressive shooting range. Mason Simily and Matthew Menzel can hit from the perimeter and power their way inside.

Michael Simily and Jase Campbell will be especially responsible for physical play and rebounding from the low post, and Caden Merrill amplifies his size with a solid jump shot.

POTOSI Trojans

2020-21 Record: 12-11 (1-4)

Head Coach: Jackson Conaway – 3rd season

Key Returning Players: Zane West, jr., F; Malachi Sansegraw, jr. G; Ty Mills, jr., F

Season Outlook:

A nearly even record reflected the inconsistency that exemplified last season for Potosi, despite sending out five seniors amid certain lineup combinations.

Four of the top five scorers have since moved on from a team that pushed Farmington to the final possession, then fell to the Central junior varsity less than 24 hours later.

Minutes will obviously increase for athletic returners juniors Zane West, Malachi Sansegraw and Ty Mills, while competition is ongoing to multiple starting roles.

The Trojans will be bolstered on the roster by standout performers in other sports, such as cross country star Ezekiel Sisk and football receivers Gavin Portell, Gavin Pinson and Luke Brabham.

ST. PAUL Giants

2020-21 Record: 8-14

Head Coach: Justin Ford – 4th season

Key Returning Players: Chris Roberson, sr., G; Devontae Minor, jr., G; Justin Ziegelmeyer, sr., G; Garrett Dempsey, sr., F; Dorian Gray, sr., G; Jacob Carroll, jr., F; Isaiah Dumas, jr., F

Season Outlook:

St. Paul presents a dynamic group of guards with excellent speed an ability to attack off the dribble, especially at the Class 1 level.

Success for the Giants may be determined by their ability to force turnovers and convert them into transition baskets, while also trying to develop a stronger scoring punch from the low post.

Chris Roberson, Devontae Minor and Justin Ziegelmeyer can all connect from long range, and track standout Dorian Gray adds greater guard depth.

Garrett Dempsey leads the forwards as a top double-double threat.

KINGSTON Cougars

2020-21 Record: 9-13 (1-4)

Head Coach: Paul Hamilton – 14th season

Key Returning Players: Matt Nelson, sr., F; Cody Yates, soph., G; Collin Sumpter, jr., F; Dylan Morrison, sr., G; Wyatt Jessen, sr., G; Corey Kemper, jr., F; Seth Politte, jr., F

Season Outlook:

Despite ultimately finishing four games below the .500 mark, the Kingston boys program seemed closer than ever to a significant breakthrough.

The Cougars advanced to multiple tournament finals, and was one victory short of capturing the first district title for the school in any athletic sport.

Senior forward Matt Nelson headlines a group of seven returning players. He is already the career leader in rebounds for Kingston, and surpassed 1,000 career points in early February.

Cody Yates starred during his varsity debut, an overtime home win over Herculaneum, and forces the opposition to defend more of the court entering his sophomore campaign.

Leadership and production will also come from experienced senior guards Wyatt Jessen and Dylan Morrison.

ARCADIA VALLEY Tigers

2020-21 Record: 10-9 (4-1)

Head Coach: Eric Thompson – 2nd season

Key Returning Players: Jackson Dement, jr., C; Willie Carter, sr., G; Kolton Boesing, sr., F

Season Outlook:

Arcadia Valley has its 2020-21 season interrupted by quarantine, and even had to withdraw from the popular Central Christmas Tournament.

But it concluded with a more coveted plaque. The Tigers executed a brilliant first half against Kingston, and their large senior class ended an 11-year district title drought.

Any hopes of similar results will be dependent on the maturity and skill of a revamped lineup that returns just a single starter and top reserve.

First Team all-conference junior Jackson Dement is already viewed among the top rebounders and most versatile post players in the league. Senior guard Willie Carter brings high energy to the defense.

VALLEY Vikings

2020-21 Record: 13-9 (2-3)

Head Coach: Johnny Viehland – 4th season

Key Returning Players: Colby Maxwell, jr., G; Carter Jackson, sr., F; Carson Loughary, sr. G

Season Outlook:

Valley capitalized on a favorable two-week stretch last year to start 6-0 for the first time in decades, including a victory in the championship final of its home tournament over Kingston.

But that squad was stacked with seniors, and the Vikings are now tasked with replacing four starters and at least three reliable reserves.

The most significant Valley returner is a First Team all-conference player, as junior Colby Maxwell becomes an even greater focal point of the offense.

Defenses will obviously shadow Maxwell, who is a threat off the dribble and from the perimeter, so teammates like seniors Carter Jackson and Carson Loughary need to provide scoring assistance.

BISMARCK Indians

2020-21 Record: 3-19 (0-5)

Head Coach: Joe Jackson – 1st season

Key Returning Players: Trevor Politte, sr., G; Ethan Dugal, sr., G; Tanner Martinez, jr., F; Garrett Mork, soph., G; Gavin Butery, jr., G; Hunter Dugal, sr., F: Sven Wilson, soph., F

Season Outlook:

Bismarck put an extremely young varsity roster on the floor last season, and often struggled to play with consistent poise over a full game.

The hustle was there as the Indians tried to employ buzzing defensive pressure, but an excessive number of fouls enabled opponents to pile up free throws and break the flow of action.

The Indians have a new head coach, and Joe Jackson inherits at least eight available players who were part of the regular rotation.

Trevor Politte is a versatile scoring option, and fellow senior guard Ethan Dugal helps with ball handling and perimeter shooting.

Tanner Martinez can work from the wing or inside while Garrett Mork and Sven Wilson form a solid core of sophomores that should benefit from the previous year of experience.

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