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BOYS HOOPS: Justin Pock ready to lead Carl Junction basketball in 2020

After five years as an assistant coach with Carl Junction, Justin Pock is thrilled to be taking over the Bulldog boys basketball program in 2020.

Prior to Pock’s five years as an assistant coach with Carl Junction, he was at Cuba High School for nine seasons, with sixth of them as the head coach. 

“I am excited to be able to continue working with the kids we have,” Pock said. “I think we have a good group coming back. Being here the last few years, I have gotten to know a lot of these guys. I know we face an uphill battle in the COC, but that’s what you want. Hopefully, we will be ready to battle every night.

I have always been about basketball. I played for Branson in the COC way back when. My dad was a coach at the high school level. I have always enjoyed coaching basketball and teaching kids what I know about the game.”

The Bulldogs are coming off a 6-20 record last season, but the experience returning for Carl Junction has Pock’s expectations high for his team taking the next step.

“I think we had a lot of guys coming back who played on that team and got to experience what varsity basketball was all about,” Pock said. “They especially know what it is going to be like in the COC night in and night out. We took some lumps last year learning the game, and I think we are further ahead this year than we were. You just can’t have a down night in one of the best basketball conferences in the entire state.”

Senior Alex Baker is expected to see heavy minutes as a starter for Carl Junction this season as a wing player. Senior Sincere Williams will run the point guard position, while seniors Blake Poorman, Trent Lehman and junior Kyler Perry are expected to fill out the remaining starting sports when the team is at full strength. 

Key players who figure to see a lot of minutes in the rotation include junior Isaiah Hefner, junior Josh Cory and sophomore Ayden Bard.

“I think we play really well together,” Pock said of his team’s strength. “We are not dominated by one guy for one shot. We share the ball really well, and I think we can run with this group. I think these guys are hungry.”

Defensive prowess is going to lead Carl Junction on that side of the ball as well as offensively. Coach Pock is focusing his kids on playing stout defensively and being strong in rebounding, which will turn into transition looks going down to the offensive end of the floor. 

“We are going to look to push the basketball and play with some pace,” Pock said. “But I think it really starts on the defensive end. It’s cliche, but it’s the truth. We can score as much as we want, but we won’t win if we don’t stop anybody. We have to get stops, and push it. We want to limit their looks while giving ourselves more opportunities.”

Carl Junction opens the season tonight in the Forsyth Tournament with a 6 p.m. matchup against Strafford. 

“We know they are a good team,” Pock said. “They are well-coached. It’s their first game, too. We need to come out and be prepared to face an athletic team that is similar to us. Hopefully, it will be a good matchup for us to start out with.”

All-Central Ozark Conference Football Team announced

The 2020 All-Central Ozark Conference Football Team has been announced.
Webb City senior Devrin Weathers has been named the Offensive Player of the Year, while classmate Treghan Parker has been named the Defensive Player of the Year.
Webb City’s John Roderique has been named the COC Coach of the Year.


Offensive Linemen—Aiden Logan, Carthage; Alex Curry, Joplin; Grant Goltra, Webb City; Zetthew Meister, Webb City; Matias Moreno, Nixa.
Running backs—Nathan Glades, Joplin; Devrin Weathers, Webb City; Luke Gall, Carthage; Ramone Green, Nixa.
Wide receivers—Cole Stewart, Carl Junction; Brady Blackwell, Branson; Smith Wheeler, Nixa.
Tight end—Gary Clinton, Webb City.
Quarterback—Patrick Carlton, Carthage.
Kicker—Caleb Calvin, Carthage.


OL—Tyke Wells, Branson; Jacob Wofford, Ozark; Ethan Howard, Carl Junction; Ian Ketchum, Carthage; Buddy Belcher, Webb City.
RB—Tylr Bolin, Ozark; Brady Sims, Carl Junction.
WR—Trayshawn Thomas, Joplin; Landon Porter, Republic; Noah Southern, Carl Junction.
TE—Lucas Neuenswander, Carthage;
QB—Alex Baker, Carl Junction.
Kicker—Cameron Clark, Webb City.


OL—Joe Don Kirkland, Branson; Reese Bonjour, Carl Junction; Garrett Lilienkamp, Carthage; Davis Ramsey, Joplin; McKinley Woods, Republic; Sam Brower, Nixa; Kaden Decker, Neosho.
RB—Kanin Keller, Willard; Ethan Pritchard, Ozark.
WR—Drew Patterson, Carl Junction; Hudson Moore, Carthage; Keaton Renfro; Joplin; Eli Aye, Willard; Cohl Vaden, Webb City.
QB—Tristan Pierce, Branson; Always Wright, Joplin; Reid Potts, Nixa; Cannon Cox, Ozark; Cole Gayman, Webb City.


Defensive line—John Gholson, Nixa; Hunter Tennison, Ozark; Jesse Cassatt, Carl Junction; Dylan Nelson, Nixa.
Linebackers—Steven Ward, Nixa; Cristian Berumen, Branson; Luke Gall, Carthage; Eli Goddard, Webb City; Clayton Uber, Nixa; Jaden Aven, Nixa.
Defensive backs—Treghan Parker, Webb City; Riley Childs, Nixa; DJ Witt, Carthage; Jayden Holt, Joplin; Kolyn Eli, Nixa.
Punter—Cristian Berumen, Branson.
Returner—Nathan Glades, Joplin.


DL—Micah Lindsey, Carthage; Donovahn Watkins, Joplin; Sergio Hernandez, Willard; Lucas Neuenswander, Carthage; Matt McDaniel, Webb City.
LB—Noah Southern, Carl Junction; Scott Lowe, Joplin; Logan Baldwin, Ozark; Thomas Rushing, Ozark.
DB—Josiah Hutchinson, Branson; Evan Hancock, Willard; Jace Easley, Ozark; Avery Moody, Republic; Shane Noel, Webb City.
Punter—Patrick Carlton, Carthage
Returner—Devrin Weathers, Webb City.


DL—Marcus Duncan, Neosho; Hunter Row, Carl Junction; Rylan Dixon, Willard.
LB—Colton Cooper, Branson; Cooper Lander, Republic; Jacob Fry, Neosho; Dylan Leach, Willard; Jack Colgin, Carl Junction; Connor Sandridge, Republic; Jaystin Smith, Webb City.
DB—Caden Kabance, Carthage; Ben Mills, Nixa; Colton Casteel, Ozark.

Football: Lamar advances to state title game, Cassville’s comeback falls short

Lamar rolled past Jefferson (Festus) 42-7 in a Class 2 prep football semifinal on Saturday at Thomas O’Sullivan Stadium. 

The Tigers (11-1) advanced to the championship game at 7 on Friday at Blair Oaks High School, where they’ll face St. Pius X (12-0). 

Lamar’s Logan Crockett scored on the second play of the game on a 60-yard run. An 8-yard score from Cade Griffith and a 10-yard pass from Case Tucker to Austin Wilkerson made it 20-0 late in the first quarter.

The Tigers added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, as Crockett scored on a 41-yard run and Tucker added a 1-yard plunge that gave Lamar a 35-0 lead at the break. 

Joel Beshore reached the end zone on a 3-yard run to give Lamar a 42-0 advantage with 3:35 left in the third quarter. Jefferson got on the board on Will Schnitzler’s 20-yard run late in the game for the final margin.  

Lamar is in a title game for the first time since 2017. The Tigers are going for their eighth crown. 



In a Class 3 semifinal, host Maryville scored the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left to beat Cassville 30-28.

The Spoofhounds led 17-0 at the end of the third quarter.

After being shut out for the first three quarters, the Wildcats scored 28 points in the fourth quarter. 

Cassville got on the board with 11:49 remaining on Hayden Sink’s 1-yard touchdown run.

Jericho Farris ran for a 34-yard score with 10:09 left, cutting Cassville’s deficit to 17-14.

Maryville answered with a scoring drive, taking a 24-14 lead with just under four minutes to play. 

The Wildcats pulled within three with 2:05 left when Drake Reese hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass. 

After recovering an onside kick, Cassville took a 28-24 lead with 1:07 to go when Brett Cooper scored on a 44-yard pass play. Maryville responded, as Connor Drake connected with Caden Stoecklein for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left. 

Cassville ends the season at 10-3.

Maryville (11-3) meets Blair Oaks (12-1) at 6 on Saturday in the championship game at Jefferson City High School. 


COLLEGE HOOPS: Stokes, Johns lead MSSU women to win; Lincoln men hand Southern first loss

Stokes, Johns lead MSSU women past Lincoln

LINCOLN, Mo. — Madi Stokes and Amaya Johns each scored in double figures to lead Missouri Southern past Lincoln 81-65 on Saturday.

Stokes tied UCM’s Niyah Jackson with a game-high 15 point on 6-of-10 shooting, pulling down a game-high 13 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Johns finished close behind with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with four rebounds and an assist in the win.

Southern (1-3, 1-3 MIAA) jumped out to a quick lead, shooting 43 percent in the first quarter (6-14) and converting seven free throws to build a 20-10 lead. The Lions continued to add on in the second quarter for a 43-26 advantage by the intermission before pushing the lead to 20 by the start of the fourth.

Biance Stocks added nine points and six rebounds, while Zoe Campbell added eight points. Kaitlin Hunnicutt and Anna Hall each had seven points. Hunnicutt finished with four rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Hall had three rebounds.

Southern limited Lincoln (0-1, 0-1 MIAA) to 35 percent shooting for the game and 26 percent from the floor in the first half. The Lions outscored the Blue Tigers 40-28 in points in the paint, and MSSU’s bench outscored Lincoln’s 50-18.

The Blue Tigers finished with three players in double figures. Niyah Jackson led the team with 15 points and five assists. Deija Jackson added 12 points, while Aliyah Bello scored 10 points , had four rebounds and three steals.

Southern hosts Northeastern State on Dec. 3.


MSSU men fall behind early in first loss

LINCOLN, Mo. — Lincoln built a 14-point lead midway through the first half and never relinquished it on the way to a 76-68 win over No. 21 Missouri Southern on Saturday.

The Blue Tigers (2-0, 2-0 MIAA) led by as many as 15 points in the second half before the Lions (3-1, 3-1 MIAA) fought back to trim the lead to five, 69-64, with 2:16 left in regulation. That was as close to the lead Southern would get before the final horn sounded.

Lincoln shot 44 percent from the field in the win, while four players finished in double-figure scoring. Sai Witt finished with 17 points and a team-high 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Quinton Drayton scored 16 points and had six rebounds. Cameron Potts had 14 points, a team-high seven assists and five rebounds. Ni’Sean Rigmaiden added 11 points.

Southern shot 37 percent from the field and 26 percent from the perimeter. Stan Scott came off the bench and led MSSU with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting. He grabbed 11 rebounds and had four steals to finish with a double-double. Cam Martin had 13 points and eight rebounds, while Winston Dessesow had 11 points and three assists. Christian Bundy scored 11 points and rishined with seven rebounds.

Southern hosts Northeastern State on Dec. 3.

COLLEGE HOOPS: Central Missouri men and women earn wins over Pittsburg State

UCM men hold off PSU down the stretch

WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Central Missouri built a three-point lead at the intermission before holding off Pittsburg State for an 88-80 win on Saturday.

The Mules (1-2, 1-2 MIAA) were red hot from the field in the win, shooting 56 percent from the floor and knocking down 10-of-16 3-point attempts to lead them to victory. The Gorillas (2-1, 2-1 MIAA) shot 50 percent from the field and 8-of-24 from the perimeter in the loss. 

Quentin Hardrict Jr. led PSU in scoring with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor, adding four assists, two blocks, two rebounds and a steal. Bobby Arthur-Williams Jr. scored 15 points and made six shots from the field. He had a team-high eight rebounds. Ryan Pippins, Martin Vogts, Zach Burch and RJ Lawrence all scored eight points for Pittsburg State. 

Central Missouri finished with five players scoring in double figures. Jalen Blaize led UCM with 25 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Gaven Pinkley added 14 points and five rebounds, while Hunter Cameron finished with 13 points and nine assists. Ante Sustic had 12 points, while Mohammed Abubakar had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Pittsburg State hosts Rogers State on Dec. 3.


UCM women take down PSU with strong start

WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Central Missouri doubled up Pittsburg State in the first quarter and built a 44-27 lead by the intermission before going on to win 78-61 on Saturday.

The Jennies (2-0, 2-0 MIAA) opened the game with the momentum, outsourcing the Gorillas 24-12 in the first quarter, and never relinquished it. Pittsburg State (1-2, 1-2 MIAA) trimmed the lead to 14 to start the fourth quarter but the Jennies held firm to keep their distance in the win.

Pittsburg State shot 31.7 percent in the loss, connecting on 10-of-32 shots from the perimeter. Tristan Gegg led the Gorillas in scoring with 22 points on 7-of-22 shooting, adding four rebounds and two assists. Kaylee DaMitz and Sydnee Crain each added nine points. DaMitz had a team-high seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. Crain added three assists and two steals. Carthage product Maya Williams had six points and six rebounds as well as two steals.

Central Missouri shot 54.5 percent from the field (30-55) and 40 percent from 3-point range (6-15). Graycen Holden led UCM in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-9 shooting. She had six rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Nija Collier was 9-of-11 from the floor for 20 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Morgan VanHyfte scored eight points and had eight rebounds.

Pittsburg State hosts Rogers State on Dec. 3

Football: Webb City suffers season-ending loss to Platte County

WEBB CITY, Mo. — A solid effort wasn’t enough for the Webb City Cardinals. 

As a result, the 2020 season came to an abrupt end.

Platte County scored the go-ahead touchdown with just under six minutes to play, and the visiting Pirates came up with a pair of late defensive stops to secure a 24-21 victory over Webb City in a Class 5 semifinal on Saturday afternoon at a packed Cardinal Stadium.

Webb City concludes the fall campaign with an 11-2 record. 

“When you start the playoffs, every team but one is going to end with a loss,” Webb City coach John Roderique said. “Hats off to Platte County. They did what they needed to do. They had a great plan. Defensively, they played really well against us. Like I said to our kids, the buck stops with me. I wasn’t good enough today. Our guys played their guts out. We couldn’t do enough offensively, and that’s on me.” 

Platte County (12-1) will meet Jackson (13-0) for the Class 5 crown at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City. 

“I’m super proud of our effort,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “I thought our kids played hard the whole game. Webb City is a tremendous team. So to be able to come in and do this against such a great program and such a well-coached program, it’s a huge win for our kids and for our program in general.” 

It was Platte County’s first-ever win against Webb City. The Cardinals won a semifinal matchup 21-18 in 2017 and beat the Pirates 48-0 in last year’s Class 4 title game. 

“Revenge was not even part of our talk,” Utz said. “We play for progress, not for revenge. We’d like to play them every year because they’re a measuring stick for us. That’s why I love playing them. It tells me where we’re at.” 

Webb City led 21-17 with 9:25 remaining, but the Pirates answered with a go-ahead scoring drive before keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone on two late series. 

“There’s a real fine line between winning and losing,” Roderique said, noting missed opportunities. “Today, it wasn’t meant to be.” 

Webb City’s Cooper Crouch tackles Platte County’s Colby Rollins during Saturday’s Class 5 semifinal. Webb City’s Brentan Wilson and Shane Noel are also pictured. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Platte County struck first when quarterback Chris Ruhnke completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Carter Salzman with 7:25 remaining in the opening frame. 

The two teams traded turnovers late in the first quarter, as Webb City quarterback Cole Gayman fumbled after being hit before Cale Stephens intercepted a Ruhnke pass.

Webb City nearly tied the game late in the first period, but the hosts fumbled on the 1-yard line, with the Pirates recovering in the end zone.

The visitors took a 14-0 lead with 9:27 left in the first half when Ruhnke completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Salzman, capping an 80-yard drive. A Northwest Missouri recruit, Ruhnke ran in the two-point conversion. 

The Cardinals cut their deficit in half when senior running back Devrin Weathers broke free for a much-needed 82-yard touchdown sprint. Cameron Clark’s kick made it 14-7 with 4:46 left in the first half. 

Webb City senior Devrin Weathers celebrates a touchdown during Saturday’s game with Platte County. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

After forcing the Pirates into a quick three-and-out, the Cardinals needed just one play to score, as Weathers ran 38 yards up the middle to the end zone, with Clark’s kick tying the score at 14 with 3:32 left in the first half.

But Platte County’s Cole Rhoden converted a 38-yard field just before the break, giving the Pirates a 17-14 halftime cushion. 

Webb City’s Treghan Parker picked off two Ruhnke passes in the third period.

“Treghan…what a great player that guy has been,” Roderique said. “He’s been tremendous for us.”

But the Cardinals were unable to take advantage of the turnovers, as the hosts simply couldn’t generate much offense during the period, going three and out on three straight drives. As a result, the hosts trailed by three entering the fourth quarter.

On the first series of the final frame, Webb City marched 74 yards to take the lead, as Dupree Jackson’s 4-yard touchdown run gave the Cardinals a 21-17 advantage with 9:25 remaining. Long pass plays set up the score, including a 33-yard strike to Mekhi Garrard and a 49-yard pass to Cohl Vaden.

The Pirates re-took the lead with 5:58 left when Colby Rollins hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ruhnke in the left corner of the end zone on fourth down, capping a 13-play, 64-yard drive. 

“He really threw the ball well,” Roderique said of Ruhnke. “The last play was a terrific throw.” 

Webb City had a turnover on downs with 4:33 left. On the ensuing drive, the Pirates were able to pick up a key first down to keep the clock moving. 

Platte County’s drive ended with a turnover on downs, but the Cardinals had just 25 seconds remaining when they got the ball back. 

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, there would be no late-game magic, as four passes fell incomplete before time ran out. 

“Our defense has been solid all year,” Utz said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who play with a lot of heart and get after it.”

Platte County’s Collin Tyson hits Webb City quarterback Cole Gayman from behind during Saturday’s Class 5 semifinal. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Webb City compiled 333 yards of offense on 46 plays, with 245 rushing and 88 passing. 

In his final game in a Webb City uniform, Weathers recorded 192 rushing yards on 16 carries with two scores. Junior Dupree Jackson ran 10 times for 60 yards. 

Another senior, Gayman completed 4-of-12 passes for 88 yards.  Vaden hauled in one pass for 49 yards, Garrard had two catches for 36 and Jackson had one reception for three yards.

Webb City had 14 first downs, while Platte County had 24. 

Platte County racked up 361 yards on 79 plays, with 227 passing and 134 rushing. The Pirates were 9-for-19 on third-down conversions, while Webb City was 3-for-10. 

Ruhnke completed 19-of-44 pass attempts with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Salzman led the receivers with five catches for 87 yards. Cayden Davis ran 27 times for 90 yards. 

NOTES: The Cardinals were led onto the field by Christian Heady, a Webb City student who has been battling cancer. 

In the other semifinal, Jackson knocked off Fort Zumwalt North 49-14 on Friday night to earn a second straight trip to the Class 5 title game. The Indians lost to Carthage in overtime last year.  


Webb City’s Dupree Jackson carries the ball during Saturday’s game. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Webb City coach John Roderique talks to his team after Saturday’s season-ending loss to Platte County. Photo by Shawn Fowler.




Platte Co.  6      11    0  7—24

Webb City  0     14   0   7—21 

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

PC: Carter Salzman 15 pass from Chris Ruhnke (Pass failed)

Second Quarter

PC: Salzman 16 pass from Ruhnke (Ruhnke run)

WC: Devrin Weathers 82 run (Cameron Clark kick)

WC: Weathers 38 run (Clark kick)

PC: Cole Rhoden 38 field goal

Third Quarter

No scoring

Fourth Quarter

WC: Dupree Jackson 4 run (Clark kick)

PC: Colby Rollins 9 pass from Ruhnke (Rhoden kick)


THEY MEET AGAIN: Webb City hosts Platte County in Class 5 semifinal

A rematch of last year’s Class 4 title game will determine who gets the opportunity to play for this year’s Class 5 championship.

Webb City (11-1) hosts Platte County (11-1) at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon at Cardinal Stadium in a semifinal clash of the Missouri Class 5 state football tournament.

Saturday’s winner advances to the championship game, where they’ll meet either Jackson (12-0) or Fort Zumwalt North (11-1) at 1 p.m. on Dec. 5 at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City.

The Cardinals hammered the Pirates 48-0 in last year’s Class 4 championship game in Columbia.

“There’s no question they’re a better football team than they were a year ago,” Webb City coach John Roderique said of the Pirates. “They have several guys back from last year and I’m sure they are a year better. They’re a really good team with a high-powered offense.”

Webb City is in the semifinals for the 19th time in Coach Roderique’s 24 seasons. This year’s trip is the program’s 12th semifinal appearance in the last 13 years.

“We’ve had some memorable Saturday games at our place for sure,” Roderique said. “There’s something special about playing a home game the week of Thanksgiving at Cardinal Stadium. And being able to play at this stage of the season is the biggest part of it. We’re just pleased to still be alive in the playoffs.”

Webb City advanced to the Final Four with last Friday’s 42-14 win over Lebanon. (Big third quarter leads Webb City past Lebanon, Cards advance to semifinals)

Platte County advanced to the semifinals by knocking off Grain Valley 31-28. The Pirates overcame a 14-point halftime deficit and scored 17 unanswered points in the second half. Cole Rhoden connected on a 43-yard field goal that ended up the game-winner.

Pirates quarterback Chris Ruhnke completed 22-of-42 pass attempts for 327 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Colby Rollins had 103 receiving yards with one score, while Carter Salzman (63 yards), Dayton Mitchell (51 yards) and Joey Schultz (49 yards) all had multiple receptions.

The Pirates didn’t have much success on the ground, as they ran 22 times for just 23 yards. Cayden Davis’ 20 rushing yards were a team-high.

Grain Valley (10-2) finished with 365 yards, with 229 passing and 136 rushing, but the Platte County defense held the Eagles scoreless in the second half after surrendering 28 first-half points.

A Northwest Missouri recruit, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Ruhnke recently became his program’s all-time passing leader, as he’s currently at 5,673 career passing yards.

“Their quarterback makes them go,” Roderique said. “He’s the best quarterback we’ve seen all year. They spread you out and throw it all over the place. They have several weapons at receiver and they have a good running game. They give you a lot to defend. They do a lot of good things offensively.”

Winners of eight straight games, Platte County is averaging 35 points per game and allowing just 15.

“Defensively, they play really hard and they tackle well and look fundamentally sound,” Roderique said. “They’re really aggressive and fast on defense.”

Platte County’s lone loss came to North Kansas City, 42-37, in Week 4.

Winners of 11 straight games, Webb City is averaging 42 points per game and allowing 15.

The Cardinals average 290 rushing yards and 64 passing yards per game.

A Kansas State recruit, senior running back Devrin Weathers has rushed for 1,590 yards and has scored 27 touchdowns. Junior Dupree Jackson has rushed for 776 yards and 11 touchdowns, while senior quarterback Cole Gayman has 553 rushing yards with eight scores.

Gayman has passed for 787 yards and seven touchdowns. Top receivers are Cohl Vaden (245 yards), Gary Clinton (224 yards) and Mekhi Garrard (182 yards).

Defensive leaders for the Cardinals are Treghan Parker (106 tackles), Matt McDaniel (78 tackles), Brayden Hollingsworth (75 tackles) and Jaystin Smith (59 tackles). Parker, Shane Noel and Eli Goddard have four interceptions apiece.

Cameron Clark has knocked in 59-of-65 PAT kicks, while Cooper Crouch is averaging 36 yards per punt.


In last year’s meeting, the Cardinals led 28-0 at halftime and then added three second-half touchdowns in the lopsided victory that gave Webb City its 15th state championship.

Webb City ran all over the Pirates, as the Cardinals racked up 412 yards on 42 attempts.

On the other hand, Platte County was limited to 62 rushing yards. Ruhnke completed 13-of-29 passes for 121 yards.

Webb City beat Platte County 21-18 in the 2017 semifinals in what was the first-ever meeting between the two schools.


Webb City is ranked second in Class 5 by the Missouri Media, while Platte County is ranked fifth.

Both schools bumped up to Class 5 this season. And now, one of them will play for a state championship on Dec. 5.




WHEN: 1:30 p.m. on Saturday
WHERE: Webb City’s Cardinal Stadium
RECORDS: Platte County 11-1, Webb City 11-1
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The winner advances to the Class 5 championship game against either Jackson or Fort Zumwalt North on Dec. 5 in Jefferson City.
HOW’D THEY GET HERE: Platte County defeated Grain Valley 31-28 in the quarterfinals, while Webb City handled Lebanon 42-14.
LAST MEETING: Webb City defeated Platte County 48-0 in last year’s Class 4 championship game in Columbia.
TICKETS: Tickets are $7. Kids 5 and under are admitted free. There are no capacity limits. Gates open at noon and masks are required upon entry.
HOW TO WATCH: ($10 fee)

FIRST LOOK: Platte County at Webb City, Class 5 semifinal


WHEN: 1:30 p.m. on Saturday
WHERE: Webb City’s Cardinal Stadium
RECORDS: Platte County 11-1, Webb City 11-1
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The winner advances to the Class 5 championship game against either Jackson or Fort Zumwalt North on Dec. 5 in Jefferson City.
HOW’D THEY GET HERE: Platte County defeated Grain Valley 31-28 in the quarterfinals, while Webb City handled Lebanon 42-14.
LAST MEETING: Webb City defeated Platte County 48-0 in last year’s Class 4 championship game in Columbia.
TICKETS: Tickets are $7. Kids 5 and under are admitted free. There are no capacity limits. Gates open at noon and masks are required upon entry.
HOW TO WATCH: ($10 fee)


NOTE: Look for a full preview story on this game later tonight.



COLLEGE HOOPS: PSU men rally back and Gorilla women pull ahead early for pair of wins

PSU men rally back for win over Jets

WICHITA, Kan. — Pittsburg State trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half only to rally back in the second half for a 72-70 win over Newman on Tuesday at Fugate Gymnasium.

Pittsburg State trailed 59-50 with 12:20 left in regulation before Ike Moore sank two 3-pointers to cut the lead to 60-57 with 8:50 left. A 3-pointer from Martin Vogts moments later tied the game at 63s. Both teams battled back and forth exchanging the lead before an offensive rebound and put-back score by Antonio Givens II with 35 seconds left gave the Gorillas the 72-70 lead and eventual win.

The Gorillas shot 39 percent in the win, but held a big advantage in points off turnovers, 20-8. PSU won the turnover battle 18-11.

Pittsburg State finished with four in double figures. Bobby Arthur-Williams Jr. led the way with 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including three 3-pointers. He had four rebounds and two assists. Givens was 5-for-7 shooting for 16 points, pulling down six rebounds and finishing with three steals and two assists. Moore scored 13 points and added six rebounds. Vogts scored 10 and had three rebounds and three assists.

Branden Bunn led all scorers with 24 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He had four rebounds and four assists. Joel Boyce added 10 points and eight rebounds.

Pittsburg State (2-0) travels to Central Missouri on Saturday. 


Strong start leads PSU women past Newman

WICHITA, Kan. — Pittsburg State built a double-digit lead by the intermission before going on to defeat Newman 61-49 on Tuesday at Fugate Gymnasium.

The Gorilla women shot 40.3 percent from the field but made just 3-of-22 shots from the perimeter. PSU dominated inside, outscoring the Jets 40-26 in the paint. On the defensive end, Pittsburg State limited Newman to 18-for-62 shooting (29%) from the field and scoreless from the perimeter (0-7).

The Gorillas finished with four players scoring in double figures, led by Kaylee DaMitz’s 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. She added a team-high six assists in the win. Dana Johnson was a perfect 6-for-6 shooting from the field to finish with 12 points, while pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Tristan Gegg added 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting, and Jayme Jackson was 2-of-3 from the perimeter and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe to finish with 10 points. Carthage product Maya Williams grabbed eight rebounds and had four points, while Ashton McCorry had six rebounds and four points.

Faith Mason-Vestal led Newman with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting and four rebounds. Brooke Haney added 10 points and four rebounds. Amoni White had eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Madison Birnbaum had a team-high 11 rebounds.

Pittsburg State (2-0) travels to Central Missouri on Saturday. 

GIRLS HOOPS ROUNDUP: Carthage, McAuley and Mount Vernon all earn wins on Tuesday

Carthage girls run away from Hillcrest in season opener

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Carthage girls basketball team saw its season start in dominant fashion after starting the opener with a 23-0 lead after the first quarter on the way to a 79-33 road win over Hillcrest on Tuesday.
We came out very aggressive from the start and overwhelmed them with our intense defense and attacking offense,” Carthage coach Scott Moore said to SoMo Sports. “It was a great start to our season. If we can replicate that 32 minutes of relentless style of basketball at both ends every game, we will be very successful this season.”

After taking a 54-13 lead into the half, the Tigers’ defense started the second half just as strong as the first after outscoring the Hornets 26-4 in the third quarter to put an exclamation point on the win.

Carthage (1-0) finished with three players in double figures. Kianna Yates scored 21 points while Hailey Fullerton added 20 points to lead the Tigers in scoring. Fullerton knocked down three 3-pointers, while Yates hit a pair of triples. Presley Probert scored 13 points, sinking three from the perimeter. Lauren Wilson scored seven, while Katie Crowe and Landy Cochran each scored six. 

Jimmesha Davis led the Hornets (0-1) with 18 points, with Maddy Goodwin adding five points and Tiana Gourdin four.

Big third quarter leads McAuley girls to win

The McAuley Catholic girls basketball team opened the season with a 45-33 win over Liberal on Tuesday.

The Warriors (1-0) took a 13-9 lead into halftime before coming out and taking control in the second half after outsourcing the Bulldogs 22-7 in the third quarter to build a 35-16 advantage. Liberal rallied with 17 points the final period, but it wasn’t enough to make a run at the lead.

Kennedy DeRuy led McAuley with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Kayleigh Teeter added 14 points for the Warriors, while Kloee Williamson added nine in the win. Gliza Damaso scored five.

Ellaina Lanear led Liberal (0-1) with 10 points, while Abby Barton and Gracie Bott each scored seven.

McAuley takes part in the Gem City Classic starting on Nov. 30.


Mount Vernon opens with win over Nevada

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. — Mount Vernon took a 25-18 lead into the half before outscoring Nevada 15-5 in the third quarter on the way to a season-opening 51-30 win on Tuesday.

Lacy Stokes led the Mountaineers (1-0) with 19 points, while Ellie Johnston added 17 points, including one 3-pointer. Cameryn Cassity scored seven, while Kadence Krempges scored four.

Tylin Heathman led Nevada with 13 points, while Abby Harder had seven points.

Mount Vernon travels to Neosho (1-0) on Dec. 7.

BOYS HOOPS ROUNDUP: Big night from Gheewala leads Thomas Jefferson over Bronaugh

BRONAUGH, Mo. — Dhruv Gheewala scored a game-high 23 points to lead Thomas Jefferson to a 71-39 win over Bronaugh to open the season on Tuesday.

The Cavaliers (1-0) scored 48 points in the first half to build a 31-point advantage into the locker room. Thomas Jefferson doubled up Bronaugh 18-6 in the third quarter to seal the momentum in the win.

Gheewala scored 20 of his 23 in the first half, making eight shots from the field and six free throws. Jay Ball added 12 points to finish second in scoring for the Cavaliers. Elias Rineker, Drew Goodhope and Caden Myers each scored seven.

Kyle Harrey led Bronaugh (0-1) with 13 points, while John Million added six points.

Thomas Jefferson is at Liberal on Dec. 1.


Liberal knocks down shot late to beat McAuley boys to open season

Liberal sank the go-ahead bucket with 2.5 seconds left to beat McAuley 55-54 to open the season on Tuesday.

The Warriors (0-1) fell into an early hole after getting outscored 15-6 in the first quarter by the Bulldogs (1-0). McAuley chipped away at the lead by winning the second quarter from Liberal 22-19 and 10-9 in the third quarter. The Warriors rallied all the way back to hold the lead in the final seconds of the contest before Liberal’s late contested make.

“Proud of our guys tonight,” McAuley coach Tony Witt said to SoMo Sports. “We got down early and battled our way back. Got to give Liberal credit, they hit a big contested shot with 2.5 seconds for the win. We are going to learn from our mistakes and get better from them.”

Daniel Wagner led McAuley with 20 points, 14 coming in the second half. Racco Bazzano-Joseph knocked down four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points, while Matthew Dohmen added eight points.

Matt Boehne led Liberal with 14 points, while Chase Ray added nine points. 

McAuley takes part in the Gem City Classic with a matchup against Purdy on Dec. 1.

Basketball: Martin leads MSSU men past UCM, Lions improve to 3-0

WARRENSBURG, Mo. — The 21st-ranked Missouri Southern men’s basketball team built a 14-point lead by halftime en route to a 67-58 win over Central Missouri on Tuesday night.

The Lions improved to 3-0. 

Cam Martin once again led the way for the Lions, as the senior standout compiled 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. 

Martin moved into eighth place on the MSSU all-time scoring list, passing both Chris Turner and Keane Thomann to finish the night with 1,537 points. 

Winston Dessesow contributed 15 points and six boards, while Stan Scott added 12 points off the bench, going 5-of-9 from the field.

The Lions shot 46 percent from the field and out-rebounded UCM 37-25. Southern had 38 points in the paint, while the Mules had 22. 

Cameron Hunter scored 16 points to lead Central Missouri (0-2). 

The Lions used a 14-2 run in the first half to go up 24-11. After a jumper from Scott and free throws from Martin, Southern led 35-21 at halftime. 

The Mules pulled within four at 47-43, but Martin answered with a 3-pointer. 

Hoops from Martin and Dessesow extended MSSU’s lead to 60-50 with just under four minutes to play. 


Central Missouri’s women outscored Missouri Southern by double digits in the first and third quarters on the way to a 78-52 win on Tuesday.

The Jennies led 22-12 after the first period before taking a 12-point lead into the intermission. Central Missouri edged Southern 22-11 out of the half to build an insurmountable advantage.

The Lions shot 28.6 percent (16-56) from the field and were 4-of-15 shooting from the perimeter. UCM outscored MSSU 32-20 in the paint and 18-7 in second-chance points. The Jennies had 26 fast-break points, while Southern scored just four points in transition. UCM won the rebounding battle 53-37.

Kaitlin Hunnicutt led the Lions with 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting and 6-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line. She added five rebounds. Carley Turnbull was 5-of-12 shooting from the floor and finished with 13 points. Madi Stokes added seven points and nine rebounds.

Central Missouri had three players finish in double-figure scoring, led by Nija Collier’s 18 points and nine rebounds. Olivia Nelson scored 16 points and had three assists and three rebounds, while Brooke Littrell finished with a double-double after scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

The Lions travel to Lincoln on Saturday. 

Basketball: Always Wright scores career-high 32, leads Joplin to season opening win

Always Wright admitted he may have been pressing just a bit too hard during the early stages of the Joplin boys basketball team’s season opener.

It’s understandable, as the junior guard is his team’s lone returning starter.

But as soon as Wright let the game come to him, the shots began to fall—again and again.

Wright poured in 32 points and led Joplin to an 80-60 non-conference victory over McDonald County on Tuesday night inside Kaminsky Gymnasium.

“I didn’t know I had that much,” Wright said when informed of his scoring total. “Whoa…OK. That’s my career-high for a high school game. It was fun being out here tonight.” 

The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter made 13 field goals—seven 2-pointers and six 3-pointers. 

“He made a lot,” Joplin coach Jeff Hafer said. “I’m going to go look and see how many he missed. He’s a good shooter, but Always has more to his game than that. When you can shoot the ball like Always does, it’s really hard to pass up some of those open ones. But he’s got more to his game. He can create for people. Obviously, Always scored the ball well. ” 

Wright scored 14 points in the first half and added 18 more after the break. 

“At first, I was putting too much pressure on myself and I was forcing some things,” Wright said. “I just had to go through the offense and I got a lot of good looks from that.” 

Joplin junior guard Always Wright scores on a drive through the lane against McDonald County on Tuesday night. Wright scored 32 points. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

Wright showed he’s more than a jump-shooter, as he had success driving to the hoop. He nearly threw down a dunk, too, but Wright threw it off the back of the rim on the one-handed attempt. 

“I wanted to attack the rim and get their bigs in foul trouble and just put pressure on the defense,” Wright said. 

Two others reached double figures for the Eagles, as sophomore guard Dante Washington scored 20 points in an impressive varsity debut. Washington, a 6-1 guard, made eight 2-point field goals and knocked in 4-of-7 free throws. 

“Dante Washington running the floor just puts pressure on the defense,” Hafer said. 

Freshman guard All Wright added 10 points with a pair of treys in his prep debut. Junior forward LT Atherton contributed eight points. 

Joplin’s starting lineup featured Always Wright, Dominick Simmons, Washington, Atherton and Micah Bruggeman. Hafer used 11 different players in the game. 

“We’re still finding our way,” Hafer said. “We played a lot of kids. We’re still seeing where everybody fits with different lineups. We have a lot to get better at. We’ve got to get better defensively. But I was pleased. In the second half, we stopped settling as much and we started playing inside-out like we want to. And it’s amazing when we do that how easy it is to get shots to go in.” 

McDonald County’s Pierce Harmon scored 14 points and Garrett Gricks added 11. 

Joplin led 16-8 after a hoop in the paint from 6-5 sophomore Terrance Gibson, but the Mustangs closed the opening frame on a 7-0 run, capped by a wing trey from Sterling Woods.

Washington’s two hoops in transition and Atherton’s pair of free throws pushed Joplin’s advantage to 33-22 with four minutes remaining in the first half. 

By the break, the Eagles held a 41-29 lead. 

“We went on a little run in the second quarter that was key to separating, but then we kind of played even,” Hafer said. 

The Eagles turned up the defensive pressure after intermission, which led to hoops in transition off McDonald County’s turnovers. 

“I liked the way we started the second half,” Hafer said. “We came out and started turning them over and got some easy ones.” 

A corner trey from Always Wright pushed Joplin’s lead to 57-38 with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter. 

A long trey from the left wing by Always Wright made it 69-47 with 5:23 left, and the Eagles never relinquished their lead.

“That was good for us,” Hafer said of the opener. “With what we’re going to see in the COC, and on our schedule, it was a good first game. Mac plays hard, they have good guards, they have size. They have everything you want to see how you stack up. They’re going to get better, too. There wasn’t a lot of defense, but there’s a lot to take away from this one offensively.” 

NOTES: Joplin won the junior varsity game 75-33. The Eagles won the freshman game 47-43. The Eagles host Pittsburg on Dec. 4. 


Joplin 80, McDonald County 60

Mac Co.  15   14    13   18–60

Joplin     16    25   20    19–80

MCDONALD COUNTY (60): Trent Alik 2, Pierce Harmon 14, Cross Dowd 8, Sterling Woods 5, Cole Martin 7, Irael Marcos 1, Jackson Clarkson 4, Teddy Reedybacon 6, Weston Gordon 2, Garrett Gricks 11. 

JOPLIN (80): Always Wright 32, All Wright 10, Dante Washington 20, Dominick Simmons 2, Micah Bruggeman 1, Joe Jasper 3, LT Atherton 8, Terrance Gibson 4, Fielding Campbell 0, Carson Wampler 0, Zayshon Hugley 0. 


Joplin coach Jeff Hafer talks to his team during a timeout on Tuesday night. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Joplin’s Dante Washington scored 20 points on Tuesday against McDonald County. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

Joplin’s Campbell signs to play golf at MSSU

When Joplin High School senior Fielding Campbell signed his letter of intent on Tuesday to play golf at Missouri Southern, he made sure to publicly thank the man who first got him involved in the sport he now loves. 

“When I was six years old, my grandpa (Denis Desmond) signed me up for junior golf,” Campbell said. “He would sign me up every year. And he would take me out every morning at 7:30 so we could go out and play together. He’s the reason I have a passion for golf.”

Campbell, who is currently a member of the Joplin boys basketball team, also thanked his family members.

“They push me to get better,” he said. 

So why Missouri Southern?

“Missouri Southern seemed like a perfect fit for me,” Campbell said. “I’ll be close to home. I just wanted to have the opportunity to have my family be able to come out and support me. And Southern practices at my home course, so I thought that would be a nice advantage for me. I’m thankful that Missouri Southern is giving me an opportunity at the next level. I’m very excited to be a Lion.” 

Missouri Southern’s golf team is led by head coach Mike Wheeler. 

Campbell is a two-time state qualifier and a past district champion for Jack Pace’s Eagles. Campbell juggles both golf and baseball during the spring.

“I thought I’d have to choose and it was going to be a very difficult decision because I’ve played both my whole life,” Campbell said. “But Coach Pace asked me if I wanted to do both. And I said, ‘definitely.’ So I have to thank him.” 

At times, Campbell plays in a golf tournament and then heads to baseball practice or a game later in the same day.

“It can get tough,” Campbell said. “But it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy both sports and I’m excited to do it again this year.”

As a sophomore, Campbell was the co-medalist at the district tournament, leading the Eagles to the team title. 

That same year Campbell finished sixth at the sectional with a 75 and then took 60th at the Class 4 state golf tournament with a two-day total of 166. Campbell also competed at state as a freshman, finishing 74th with a 165. 

Campbell hones his skills during the summer by competing in a number of Southwest Missouri Jr. Golf Association events.

After his junior season was wiped out to the coronavirus, Campbell said he’s looking forward to the spring season.

“I want to be an all-state golfer this year,” Campbell said. “That’s the goal.”


Joplin senior Fielding Campbell signs to play golf at Missouri Southern on Tuesday at JHS. Photo courtesy of JHS.

ONE LAST BUCKET: Neosho’s Brylee King has memorable Senior Night 

If you examine the scorebook from Monday’s girls basketball game between Neosho and Seneca, you’ll notice that Wildcats senior guard Brylee King recorded a field goal during the first quarter.

While some might assume the two points were rather insignificant in Neosho’s 52-47 non-conference victory inside the NHS Gymnasium, King’s lone hoop of the night was actually quite noteworthy and meaningful.

A multi-year varsity performer and team captain, King is unable to compete this season as she rehabs a knee injury, so Monday’s appearance on the court was arranged by the coaches and players of both squads. 

“My senior year was taken away from me, so it was nice to have one last moment as a senior,” King said. “I want to thank Seneca for allowing that to happen. And I also have to thank my coaches and our administration for letting me have that one moment.” 

Before the team’s home opener, King and her classmates Olivia Hixson, Michelle Lindsey and Avery Renfro were recognized with their parents for their contributions to the program. 

Wearing her school’s home white uniform, King was announced as part of the starting lineup. And while the other nine players on the court settled near center court for the jump ball, King made her way toward her team’s basket. 

Neosho allowed Seneca to win the opening tip and Indians guard Aliya Grotjohn made an uncontested layup. 

Neosho then brought the ball up the floor and Hixson passed up ahead to King, who caught the ball just outside of the lane on the right side of the court. With a large brace on her left knee, and with the Seneca defense backing off, King took two dribbles and banked in a layup. 

She received a nice ovation from the home fans after scoring her team’s first points of the night. 

The game was then stopped, and King received a hug on the court from Hixson. King then exited the court, getting a hug from sub Rain Harris and a handshake and a pat on the back from Wildcats coach Ryan Madison before she took her spot on the bench for the remainder of the contest. 

It was a heartwarming moment for King, her parents Josh and Angela, and the entire Neosho fanbase in attendance.

“It was amazing,” King said. “That’s really the best way I can describe it. I’m blessed with great teammates and coaches that have allowed me to do that. It was just an amazing feeling.”

King’s athletic career was cut short when she suffered a severe knee injury during the volleyball season.  

“We were playing in the semifinals at the Cabool Tournament,” King recalled. “I went up for a hit and I came down on one leg. I tore my ACL and my meniscus. I had surgery three weeks later and now I’m still recovering.” 

The knee injury not only cost King the remainder of her senior year of volleyball, but also wiped out her final season of basketball, as well. 

King was the team’s second leading scorer of the 2019-20 season behind Hixson. She hit five 3-pointers in a game last season, and had high hopes for her final prep campaign on the hardwood before it was ripped away by the injury. 

That’s why Monday’s Senior Night moment was so memorable for King, her family and teammates. King plans to remain with the squad for the winter, and she hopes to be more than a cheerleader. 

King, who plans on attending Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee after graduation, said she wants to provide support and guidance to the program’s younger players this winter. 

“I’m happy to spend this season with my teammates,” she said. “I’m still the captain of the team. My role is to teach and help the younger girls. I’m going to really encourage my teammates.” 

Monday’s tightly-contested game went down to the wire, but the Wildcats pulled out a close win to improve to 2-0. 

And during the week of Thanksgiving, King noted she was thankful for the opportunity to hit the court one final time in a Neosho uniform.

Recording one last bucket on Senior Night was an added bonus. 

“It was great,” King said. “I’ve played with Olivia since we were in third grade. It was really nice that she got to pass me the ball and I was able to go up and score. I’m just really happy that I got to do that. It felt amazing to touch the ball one last time. I got two points for the season and I’m happy.”

Brylee King and her parents, Angela and Josh King, are pictured during Neosho’s Senior Night festivities on Monday night at NHS. Photo courtesy of Neosho High School.


WATCH HERE: Video footage of Brylee King’s special Senior Night can be viewed here:

Neosho High School – Portal (


BASKETBALL: Three returning starters to lead College Heights boys this season

College Heights Christian boys basketball returns three starters who will not only lead the Cougars this season, but next year as well.

College Heights’ returnees are highlighted by junior Miller Long, who averaged 16.5 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. Sophomore Curtis Davenport is also back after averaging 10.9 points and seven rebounds a game as a freshman. Junior Haden Beck brings back 4.6 points and three rebounds from last season.

“The three returning starters we have all had good experience last year and are still underclassmen,” Johnson said. “It makes a big difference. This is Miller’s third year as a starter, and he is a really good leader for us. Curtis played inside for us last year, but he can move outside even standing at 6-5. Haden started the second half of the year for us last season. … We are looking for a lot out of him this year.”

Junior Ethan Adel and senior Evan Burton figure to fill out the starting five for the Cougars. Junior Ethan Meeks, a 6-foot-6 Joplin transfer, figures to see heavy minutes as the sixth man or a spot starter this season. Johnson will be looking for his remaining reserves to carve out their roles as the season progresses.

One thing College Heights will rely on heavily this season for production on both sides of the floor is its size and ability to create matchup problems inside. When it comes to areas the team will need to work on, the play at the guard positions will be key.

“We have really stressed about focusing on developing a good inside game,” Johnson said. “We can always go back out with it, but with our size, hopefully our inside game is our strength.

“The guard position is a little suspect, and a little what we are worried about right now. It comes with experience. Hopefully, by January, it will have taken care of itself.”

It didn’t take long for COVID to have an impact on the Cougars’ season. Originally, College Heights was supposed to open the season with a matchup against Rich Hill. After the Tigers were forced to quarantine both the boys and girls teams, College Heights was forced to find a new opponent, which turned out to be Chadwick tonight in the season opener.

“It will be interesting to see how they handle it,” Johnson said about his team’s ability to adapt this season. “Almost all of our kids have already been in quarantine (this year). Only about one or two haven’t. … It’s a new type of adversity.”

College Heights’ matchup is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be played at Ozark Christian College.

BASKETBALL: Witt ready to provide stability for McAuley boys basketball

Being the fourth coach in four years has new McAuley Catholic Warriors head coach Tony Witt looking to provide the boys basketball program with one important trait they’ve lacked in recent years—stability.

“It is very important,” Witt said. “One of the things during the interview process that I really wanted to establish was being present in the middle school and in the youth programs. That is where it all starts. To get down there and get our kids fundamentally sound before they get to high school is crucial for our success in the future.”

Establishing a foundation for the McAuley program is especially important to Witt because he was a former Warrior, graduating from the school in 2000. 

“I am at a loss for words for how excited I am,” Witt said of returning to his alma mater. “To be back, and to be in the same hallways where I was in as a player and student is like no other. … We want to win, but one of the big things for me is getting deeper into the postseason. We want people in our community to be happy about and proud of our program. … That is a huge goal for this program moving forward.”

Senior Daniel Wagner, senior Matthew Dohmen, senior Thomas Black, sophomore Joe Staton and junior Kevin Tran figure to be the starting five for the Warriors. Wagner was a first-team all-conference selection last season and averaged 16.6 points per game. Black was an honorable mention all-conference player a year ago, averaging 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest.

“Having Daniel, Matthew and Thomas is huge for us,” Witt said. “They’ve got to step up and show these younger guys how to play because we have a lot of youth beneath them. They are really the only three who have varsity experience. For them to lead by example is going to be huge not only for this year, but for the future.”

Sophomore Kable Reichardt, freshman Bradley Wagner, junior Jeffery Horinek, junior Jacob Bracich, freshman Rocco Bazzano-Joseph as well as seniors Joe Lupicki and Cade Englert expect to provide depth off the bench.

Witt’s philosophy for the offense is simple. He wants to let his kids play. He isn’t focusing on running set plays in the halfcourt, but more so on letting the game come to his kids. 

“I am a motion guy,” Witt said. “I don’t like to run sets. I like to teach offense and let the players play. That is crucial for me and really big for our development. We want to be as unselfish as possible. We want to be able to pass on good shots and take great shots. Our motion is pass-and-pick-away base.”

Defensively, the Warriors on focusing on keeping opponents to under 50 points per game using a press defense, particularly in the halfcourt, while using a strong rebounding game to compliment the defensive effort.

“We want to emphasize finishing off defensive possessions with rebounding, and not giving up the offensive rebound,” Witt said. “That is something that our guys have mentioned to me. They want to be a better rebounding team, and they want to be a better defensive team. That was one of their goals that they’ve set this year. That is something we have been working on every day.”

With Witt in charge of turning the program around, he is aware the process will take time. The immediate goal is to turn in a winning season in 2020. McAuley starts that quest with a season-opening matchup against Liberal on Tuesday.

“It is going to be a great one,” Witt said. “It’s the first game of the year, and McAuley-Liberal has been the first game of the year since I was in school. It’s going to be exciting and packed. The team is excited and ready to play.”


Basketball: Joplin girls win home opener, improve to 2-0

A new era of Joplin girls basketball is off to a promising start. 

Joplin improved to 2-0 on the young season by earning a convincing 46-28 non-conference victory over East Newton on Monday night in the home opener of the 2020-21 season inside Kaminsky Gymnasium.

“A win is a win,” first-year Joplin head coach Luke Floyd said. “We’ll take any win we can get. It wasn’t pretty by any means, and there’s still lots of stuff to work on. We are still a work in progress. We’re going to get there. There were lots of positives. We’re making strides in the right direction.” 

Floyd noted getting off to a 2-0 start should give his young team a confidence-boost, as last year’s team won just four games. 

“It’s huge,” Floyd said of the start to the season. “When we walked off the floor Friday night (at Cassville), you could see the confidence in the locker room. We’re building confidence. This validates that their hard work is paying off. If we continue to work hard, good things are going to happen for us.” 

Junior forward Emma Floyd scored 12 points to lead the Eagles, while sophomore guard Isabella Yust added eight points. Junior guard Brooke Nice and sophomore guard Brynn Driver contributed seven points apiece in Joplin’s balanced attack. Driver connected on two 3-pointers, while Nice hit one trey. 

Joplin’s Brooke Nice looks for an opening against East Newton on Monday night. Joplin won the game 46-28. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

Also for the Eagles, sophomore Serafina Auberry scored four points, while senior Lily Pagan and freshman Bailey Ledford contributed three points apiece and senior Jacie Jensen chipped in two points. 

“We try to be balanced,” Coach Floyd said. “It’s great if you have a player that can score 30 a game. I’ve never had that. We teach our girls to play their role. We find the best shot instead of the first shot. We’re doing a really good job of finding open teammates and knocking them down. That’s a credit to the girls. They’re playing very unselfish.” 

Joplin made 15 field goals and went 13-for-25 at the free throw line. 

Sophomore guard Shaw Coburn scored 11 points to lead East Newton (0-1). Makenna Brasier and Alyssa Coffey added five points apiece for the Patriots, who went 10-for-22 at the charity stripe. The visitors were held to nine field goals.  

The Eagles, who are currently playing without junior Ella Hafer, took control early and held a 10-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Emma Floyd’s hoop in the paint gave the hosts a 14-4 cushion with four minutes remaining in the first half.

While East Newton struggled with turnovers and empty possessions throughout the first half, Joplin closed the second quarter on a 12-2 run to take a comfortable 22-6 halftime lead. 

“Our defense was good in the first half,” Coach Floyd said. “In the second half we got a little lax and started reaching more. The girls were working really hard on the defensive end. They were moving their feet, sliding over and helping. That’s going to be our bread and butter. We’re going to have to bring defense every night because our offense may be inconsistent for a while.” 

Treys from Nice and Driver pushed Joplin’s advantage to 30-8 with 5:40 left in the third quarter. By the time the third period ended, Joplin’s lead was 37-14.

The final outcome was never in doubt in the fourth quarter. 

The Eagles will compete at the Carl Junction Classic next week and then host the 24th annual Freeman Lady Eagle Classic from Dec. 10-12.

Joplin’s Emma Floyd drives to the hoop against East Newton’s Makenna Brasier on Monday night inside Kaminsky Gymnasium. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Joplin coach Luke Floyd gives his team instructions during a timeout on Monday. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Brynn Driver puts up a shot in traffic against East Newton. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

Basketball: Webb City boys return solid core; Cardinals practicing without football players

Now in his fifth season at the helm of the Webb City boys basketball program, Jason Horn has become accustomed to patiently waiting for a number of football players to join his winter practices.

This year is no different. 

While the Webb City football team prepares for Saturday’s Class 5 semifinal contest, the school’s boys basketball team is now in its third week of preseason practices. 

“I don’t know that there’s a perfect way to handle it,” Horn said. “It’s a year-to-year situation. But we have more guys in practice this year than we’ve had in my previous four years here. We have seven of our top 10 in practice right now. It’s a situation where we don’t want to install too much. For the boys who are in practice, we’re working on getting our base packages in and on conditioning. The guys we have now will have to carry the load early on until our football guys are able to come in and get themselves in basketball shape.” 

While the Cardinals await the arrival of several football players, the team has a solid core of returning varsity performers who have been working hard in preparation of the 2020-21 season on the hardwood. 

Versatile senior guard Nickhai Howard is expected to lead the way for the Cardinals. As a junior, the 5-foot-11 Howard averaged 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals a game. Howard, who provides ball-handling, scoring and play-making, averaged seven points per game as a sophomore and is now a varsity veteran. 

“I think he’s got a chance to be a really special player,” Horn said. “Last year, he emerged on everybody’s radar. He’s a guy that fills up the stat sheet. He does whatever we need, whether we need him to score, get a rebound or get a stop on the defensive end.” 

Nickhai Howard

Senior guard Mekhi Garrard (6-1) is another player who also played a significant role last year. The speedy Garrard averaged eight points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals per game as a junior. 

Next, 5-10 junior guard Cohl Vaden will take on a bigger role this winter. Vaden averaged nine points and three assists per game. He also hit 36 3-pointers last season. 

“Both of them have starting experience and I look for both to play big minutes,” Horn said. “They are guys who can help us a great deal, offensively and defensively. Cohl could see time at both guard positions. We expect Mekhi to guard our opponent’s best player. Both are good athletes and good open-court players.”

The trio of Howard, Garrard and Vaden have the ability to give opponents fits with their play-making and shot-making ability. 

“All three of those guys really fit into what we want to do,” Horn said. “They allow us to play at the pace we want to play at.” 

Seniors Trenton Hayes (6-1), Luke Brumit (6-4) and Shane Noel (6-0) are also expected to contribute nicely. 

Horn expects Hayes to play a big role in the backcourt. 

“Trenton’s a guy who is primed to have a big season,” Horn said. “He’s as skilled as anyone we have on the roster. He shoots the ball really well. He can run the point if needed. He has a good midrange game. He’s a pretty complete player.” 

Brumit and Noel gained varsity experience last winter. 

“Luke has a good touch around the basket and his length will help us defensively,” Horn said. “Shane is a great shooter. He’s a really good defender who plays with a lot of toughness.” 

Juniors Kaden Turner (6-3), Max Higginbotham (6-2), Isaiah Brisco (5-10) and Dupree Jackson (6-0) and sophomore Alex Martin (6-4) are other players who could see significant minutes. 

“Kaden is long and athletic and shoots the ball really well,” Horn said. “Max is a big, strong and athletic kid who can shoot and handle the ball. Isaiah handles the ball well and is another quick and athletic kid. Dupree can play guard or forward and he’s a tenacious defender. Alex can play with his back to the basket or step out and shoot the 3. He sees the floor really well.” 

Vaden, Garrard, Noel and Jackson are all football players who will join the basketball team once the Cardinals’ season on the gridiron concludes, while the rest of above mentioned athletes have been in the gym with Horn and his staff. 

Horn noted depth could be a strength of the group.

“We’re going to run a lot of guys in and out in waves,” Horn said. “We have some talent top to bottom. We’ll see how we come together as a group.” 

The Cardinals are coming off a stellar 2019-20 season. It was one that saw the Cardinals capture a district championship and come within one win of advancing to the Class 4 semifinals.

Webb City must replace its top two scorers from last year’s squad that finished 17-10. 

Terrell Kabala, last year’s Central Ozark Conference Player of the Year, and Tanner Rogers, combined to score 27 points per game a year ago. Kabala signed to play at Arkansas-Fort Smith, while Rogers is playing at College of the Ozarks. 

Webb City opens the season at home against Lamar on Dec. 8. If the Webb City football team wins its semifinal game on Saturday, the Cardinals will play for a state championship on Dec. 5. 

“Last year, we only had two days with everybody before our first game,” Horn said with a laugh. 

BASKETBALL: PSU men open the season with win; Gorilla women fall in opener

EDMOND, Okla. — Pittsburg State men’s basketball opened the season with a win after getting a game-high 23 points from Quentin Hardrict Jr. in a 77-66 win over Central Oklahoma on Saturday.

Hardrict was 6-of-9 shooting from the floor, including three 3-pointers, to lead the Gorillas (1-0, 1-0 MIAA) over the Bronchos (0-2, 0-2 MIAA) on the road. He was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.

Pittsburg State and Central Oklahoma were separated by just three points by the break before the Gorillas shot 54.2 percent from the floor in the second half to earn the win. Seven Gorillas finished with at least one assist in the win, but Ike Moore finished with a team-high two assists.

PSU’s Ryan Pippins scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, also knocking down a trio of 3-pointers for the Gorillas. Bobby Arthur-Williams Jr. finished in double figures with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Arthur-Williams and Zach Burch each added six rebounds for the Gorillas.

Central Oklahoma shot just 35.4 percent from the field in the game, and was led in scoring by Justin Nimmer, who finished with 15 points. Isaiah Wade added 14 in the loss.

Pittsburg State returns to action Tuesday when the Gorillas travel to Wichita, Kansas, to take on MIAA rival Newman.


EDMOND, Okla. — The Pittsburg State women’s basketball team was outscored 27-10 in the game-deciding third quarter, as the Gorillas fell 80-50 in the season opener against Central Oklahoma on Saturday at Hamilton Field House.

Second-year standout Kaylee DaMitz scored a team-leading 22 points for the Gorillas (0-1, 0-1 MIAA) in their season debut. Maya Williams, a Carthage product, added nine points and Tristan Gegg finished with seven points.

Pittsburg State shot 23.5 percent from the field in the contest, making 16-of-68 shots from the floor. The Gorillas were just two-of-18 from 3-point range.

UCO (2-0, 2-0 MIAA) got a game-high 26 points from Kelsey Johnson.

The Gorillas return to action Tuesday when they travel to Wichita, Kansas, to take on Newman.