March 22, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

March Madness is alive and kicking Ė unlike my NCAA bracket. I wonít go into great detail about how poor my selections were (I thought about just recycling last yearís March Madness column, or the one from the year before, or the year before, or the year beforeÖ) Weíll just call it bad and leave it at that.

While Iíve enjoyed watching the games on CBS, I must tell you that I got to see some pretty darn good hoops action in person while the likes of Ohio State and North Carolina were doing their thing on national television.

In what is becoming an annual tradition for the wife and I, we traveled to Columbia for the 2007 Show-Me Showdown. For two weekends in March, the best high school basketball teams in the state travel to Mizzou Arena to battle for the state championships in the Class 1-5 playoffs. Class 4 and Class 5 play the second weekend of March with Class 1, 2 and 3 playing the following weekend.

Class 4 and Class 5 represent the stateís biggest schools. These games offer the glamour of some big names that will travel on to the college ranks (did you know that North Carolinaís Tyler Hansbrough is a graduate of Popular Bluff Ė he scored 141 points and grabbed 77 rebounds in six career games at the Show-Me Showdown).

But, as a small town kid, that covers some of the stateís best Class, 1, 2 and 3 teams, I prefer to wait a week and travel to Columbia for the second weekend of the playoffs.

If you have never taken in one of these events, I have to recommend putting this on your March calendar in the future. Mizzou Arena offers some excellent seating, and Columbia is one of my favorite town/cities to visit as there is plenty to do after the final whistle blows.

But letís face it, we are there for the basketball action, and as usual, the hoops did not disappoint in 2007.

That darn work got in the way on Thursday, so we missed out on the Class 3 finals. Charleston took the boysí title with a 66-48 victory over Pembroke Hill while in girlsí play it was powerhouse Metro of St. Louis dispatching Springfield Catholic 63-40.

Being the boss, I didnít let work get in the way on Friday.

Iím blessed to have a wife, that not only indulges me when it comes to this trip in March, she actually looks forward to it as much, if not more than I do Ė so much so, that this little foray often doubles as her birthday celebration.

So we hit the road early Friday and zipped down to Columbia. With two sessions of four games each, set for Friday, birthday girl decided to do a little shopping in the morning, with the evening set aside for the Class 1 semifinals.

The first game pitted a familiar foe, LaPlata, against Bell City, a small southern Missouri school. While the population of the town may be small, that was the only thing little about the program. The Cubs were led by Will Bogan, a 6í10Ē center that is headed to the University of Memphis. The big guy was too much for the Bulldogs as Bell City advanced to the title game with a 20-point win.

Next up was the other Class 1 boysí semifinal with the 2006 state champions Jefferson getting past Wheatland 61-40 to set up a rematch of last yearís title game versus Bell City.

The girlsí semifinal was another lopsided contest as Cairo was no match for Walnut Grove. The Lady Tigers prevailed 63-24 to move on to the finals.

Leeton bested Mound City 55-41 in the 9:30 game.

After an evening of Class 1 play, we opted for the Class 2 finals on Saturday. One thing Iíve discovered is that I am too old to sit in a seat the whole day for all eight games.

The St. Louis area wrapped up another title as the Class 2 boys crown went to Eskridge. The Trojans knocked off Mansfield 64-54. Harrisburg, the team which beat our district champ, Salisbury, won the third place game over Osceola.

The girlsí Class 2 final was the highlight of our trip. Our district champ, Westran, had their hearts broken, fittingly by a team from Hartville. Freshman Maggie Arnall hit a three pointer at the buzzer, to upset the Lady Hornets 49-48.

As it turns out, we missed some pretty good action that night. On the road home we learned that LaPlata took third in an exciting 73-71 win over Wheatland. Then Jefferson made it back-to-back titles with a 66-65 win over the Cubs.

If you have never attended a Show-Me Showdown, I can honestly say you donít know what you are missing. The basketball is great, and the atmosphere is unbelievable. The only thing that could make it better is if we were cheering on one of our own teams. Someday.

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