Happy 2013 my friends and welcome back to Duerrisms. Hope yours was a Merry Christmas and a special holiday season.
Between High School Football Wrap Up fun and the onslaught of Holiday Tournament action, being a TV Sports Director in November/December is a little like being a CPA in March/April. It's fun, without question, but it leaves little opportunity for free time or any extras (like this column, for example) but now that we are back on solid footing and an even keel, we are back in this space for your enjoyment from now until the end of March Madness. For those unfamiliar with the process, I typically alternate girls and boys basketball power polls week to week in this space. But since we been away for so long, I will give you a Top Ten on both sides of the ledger to chew on this week before moving back into our standard format next week with all the added goodies and observations . And as always, these are simply my "know nothing" opinions and provided purely for entertainment. There is no intention here to offend.
As always, our thanks to GAMEMASTERS for their support and patronage of this endeavor.
A reminder to all you social media users out there: you can follow me on Twitter ( https://twitter.com/ChrisDuerr ) for instant feedback, scores as the happen, stories as they break in real time on Twitter, impromptu movie and music reviews, incessant whining about the worst franchise in Professional Sports and my unconditional love of them: the Sacramento Kings. Feel free to hit me up there any time with questions, comments, or life advice (heaven help you if you are looking for the later) as Twitter is usually the easiest place to catch me these days. Also, we operate a Facebook Page ( http://www.facebook.com/KHQAChrisDuerr ) where I run polls and impromptu chat sessions to gauge your opinions of the topics of the day in local sports. Hope you can lend us your expertise for the on-going Sports and Wrestling Seasons by checking in there often and participating in the votes.
KHQA STUDENT ATHLETE OF THE WEEK presented by CELL TECH, PETERS HEATING and AIR, and SUBWAY
Now in its eighth year of existence, the KHQA Student Athlete of the Week Award celebrates the best and brightest examples of achievement in Tri State Athletics. Every Wednesday Night at 6:00pm, we will profile a deserving senior selected from a pool of applicants by our independent nominating committee. It's a look beyond just their highlights into the mindset and determination that make these young men and women successful in all that they do; a reminder to all of you just how much good there is out there to be celebrated in this generation. And at year's end, we will once again award scholarships to the top boys and girls scholar athletes in our area.
If you know of a deserving senior who sports a minimum 3.5 GPA, please contact your high school athletic director and have them fill out a form on that student's behalf. Or help expedite the process yourself by printing a nomination form from our website (which can be found on the Student Athlete of the Week Page) and turning it in to your local athletic director so that they can submit it to us. Our LAST nominating session is in March, at which point we will pick our final 15 honorees from the pool of seniors. The window of opportunity to nominate a deserving applicant is closing fast. We don't want to miss anyone in the process and sincerely hope you will help us out in that spirit.
Week One: DALTON POWELL, Hannibal High Football/Basketball/Baseball
Week Two: INDIA GREEN, Quincy High Volleyball
Week Three: JILL HARRIS, Beardstown Softball/Volleyball/Basketball
Week Four: CARLI WATSON, Hannibal Volleyball
Week Five: HANNAH TRUMP, Clark County Softball/Basketball
Week Six: NICK WEIMAN, QND Football
Week Seven: BRENDAN ROSS, Louisiana Basketball/Football/Golf/Baseball
Week Eight: ETHAN BORROWMAN, Pittsfield Baseball/Basketball/Cross County
Week Nine: PEYTON GRUBER, Paris Basketball/Softball
Week Ten: ALEX DIETRICH, Quincy High Volleyball
Week Eleven: JAKE VOSS, Payson Seymour Basketball/Golf
Past Scholarship Winners
2012: ALEX WALTER, Central High (Augustana College)
TORI KUHN, Quincy Notre Dame (Lindenwood College)
2011: JACOB CONLEY, Central High (U.S. Military Academy at West Point)
DAKOTA FLESNER, Payson Seymour (John Wood Community College)
2010: MICHAEL LAFFERTY, Illini West (Monmouth College)
TAYLOR BAXTER, Palmyra (Illinois State)
2009: MATT PATTERSON, South Shelby (Truman State)
CHLOE BARNES, Quincy Notre Dame (Ball State University)
2009: LUKE GUTHRIE, Quincy High (University of Illinois)
2007: KATELYN BASTERT, Illini West (Duke University)
2006: MIKAL BENECOMO, Clopton (Southeast Missouri State)
KHQA BASKETBALL POWER POLLS
Granted, the Tigers haven't played to the same competition level as everyone else at the top of this list, but undefeated is still undefeated. For a small school and limited roster, Andy Anderson has been blessed with great balance and a Top Seven that compares favorably to much bigger schools. To wit, the Tigers have had four different players lead them in scoring this season and five different guys reach double figures in a given game. Been incredibly impressed with the rise of Tyler Niemann, who has really stepped up his command of the game and his confidence level. Brandon Berhorst is, inch for inch, one of the hardest working players in Tri State Basketball and can really fill out a stat sheet. Gabe McKenzie hasn't disappointed as the team's only real "big" in this mix and David McReynolds have proven himself to be a guy who can just go out and find you points, regardless of defender upon him. It's a nice mix of talent and a team that is incredibly fun to watch. Called the Tigers "Payson Seymour West" earlier this season. I am not sure the Tigers haven't actually done a better imitation of the Indians than even the Indians themselves to date as Andy Anderson's defense has been incredibly consistent.
2) QUINCY HIGH
Sean Taylor is my early co-leader here for Coach of the Year (along with Jacksonville's JR Dugan) if for no other reason than his masterful and deft handling of his big man situation. To be honest, the Devils have a bit of a Russian Roulette working in the paint. While Luka Radovic, Barnell Thomas, Connor Mellon, and Jason Salrin all have their relative merits and strengths, there is no telling which of them is going to step up and deliver on a given night. And yet, in every single game, Taylor has intuited/sensed/cajoled the right mix of minutes/emphasis on the Big Four to maximize his production. I can't stress to you how critical that has been in pushing QHS to this 11-2 start or how subtle a juggling act this has been but it speaks volumes about Sean's ability to instantly diagnose and remedy the right fix down low. And to their credit, all four of the Blue Devil bigs have shown improvement and great moxie and fight during the course of this early season. Couple that with a guard rotation that I think is second to none in Tri State Basketball in the Law Firm of Kvitle, Fairley, and Abbey and you have a team that has been effective, fun to watch, and dynamic enough to beat anyone on a given night. In that aspect, and in the ability to mask their own flaws, this has been one of my favorite Quincy High teams to watch in some time.
Yep, kids...the Crimsons are every bit as good as advertised. Came out and took Taylorville's best haymaker (a vastly improved, well-coached, incredibly good passing team...by the way) and grinned back it before landing their own "take that" barrage. Here's the scary thing about what I saw at The Bowl on Friday: Jacksonville went from nine down to ten up in a blink against Taylorville...and superstar Josh Peak didn't score a point in the frame. It speaks to just how balanced and deep this team is. The Crimsons are going to pose matchup nightmares with Dalton Keene, Blake Hance and Diontiue Armstrong giving them great front court length and obviously the biggest "point guard" around in Peak. I walked away fantastically impressed with just how good Brendan Barlow and Payton Dugan have gotten. I thought both were decent players the three times I got to see Jacksonville last year, but in all honesty, they know both look like guys who could flat out carry a lesser team. Smooth, sharp, and just terrific catch and shoot players. In fact, I walked away marveling at just how good Barlow's hands are in cleaning up lousy passes or 50/50 balls. He scoops everything like a shortstop. Good players, both. JR Dugan has built himself a very good, incredibly multiple squad who is now a perfect 3-0 in Central State Eight. And more than that, they are fun to watch to boot. And hosting a Regional come the post season. Not sure these guys might not top this list in a month's time.
Alex Fitch is one of the most unique, multifaceted talents in all of Tri State Basketball and Matt McPherson is a 6'9" monster who has shown minutes of sheer dominance at both ends of the floor. But neither of those statements are really surprises. Nor are they the reason I am so jazzed about this Raider squad going forward. It's been the "everybody" else part of this equation that has really turned my head. To wit: how good has Chris Dietrich been in channeling and fine tuning his skills into a purer point guard? The night QND beat Palmyra I walked away marveling at just how far Chris has come and how good he's gotten. Nick Dietrich also looks a much more confident player, particularly in shooting the basketball. Sam Douglas may have made the most significant leap of all, though it hasn't gotten the attention is deserves because it is so easy on this team to fixate on Fitch/McPherson. I don't remember Sam playing with this much bounce and directed energy last season. There's almost a JR Smith feel to his energy now that wasn't there a year ago. And the kid may be the most fearless player on this team. Plus you are now getting meaningful contributions from what may be the area's best bench which features a collection of blue collar kids, nifty athletes, and a few future number one option types (see also Walz, Riley) in support of a really strong first five. Scott Douglas has an enviable arsenal to draw from and few coaches are better, when they can multipe, than the QND boss. Most encouraging of all, this QND team seems to have divested itself, thus far, of delivering that occasional, inexplicable clunker game that plagued last years model. But as we saw on Friday, QND will need to be a better version of itself as the 2013 portion of the schedule and that 3A Postseason Draw are going to be taxing to say the least.
5) WEST HANCOCK
Number of games the Titans have lost with a healthy Paxton Harmon in play? Zero. There alone might be your most compelling argument at season's end for POY honors to Harmon. The kid does so many good things for West Hancock, both with and without the basketball that can't otherwise be replicated in his absence, that he has quickly emerged as the most pivotal singular cog in all of Tri State Basketball. Quietly, Harmon's greatest value to Reno Pinkston may well be his ability to space the floor and allow other teammates to increase their viability. At Max-Q, this group works very well together. Parker Gibbs has turned himself into a very nice presence at both ends of the floor in the post. I really like how much he has steeled himself against contact and seems to have mentally locked in. And he might be the most improved rebounder on this side of the river. Austin Hardy is the perfect Kevin Martin type here, knocking down long range jumpers and commanding defensive respect so as to keep teams at least a little more honest against Harmon. Coy Dorothy is an extraordinarily good passer with a high IQ and a tough demeanor. Ben Sinele has proven himself a pretty good glue guy who never takes a second off on the court. And to be honest, I think Reno Pinkston has done a terrific job bringing his bench along and masking the limitations we thought that existed preseason. End of the day, though, long range success all still hinges on Paxton Harmon's health and these ankle injuries have to be incredibly vexing to the Titan Fan Bases moving forward.
THE NEXT LEVEL
6) PAYSON SEYMOUR
There is no real sin in losing to Unity on the Mustangs home floor by a single point, though it may well be a call to arms for Brian Rea to ratchet up his team's toughness defending the paint going forward. The common denominator in Indian losses to Plains and Unity is that Payson-Seymour could not negate the interior size and/or strength advantage opponents used to exploit Payson on the inside; particularly in a plodding, half court game. There really isn't a team in our area who attacks the basket as well or as quickly (or with as many different viable weapons) as the Indians on Offense when they are allowed to dictate tempo. And when they do, it's pretty easy to mask missed Defensive Assignments. But those miscues become amplified when the Indian Offense isn't allow to run free and score at will, which now give Coach Rea the teaching point he needs to refocus his kids to fight in the paint on every possession. Suspect we will see a very different resolve in Winchester this week on the interior.
7) ILLINI WEST
I am about ready to build the Brody Gronewold POY Bandwagon myself after watching him do everything at Macomb over the Christmas Holiday. Kid is a super slick player who glides away from defenders with beguiling ease and makes everyone around him better. I'll be honest, I like this team a lot more than I thought I would on paper preseason. Post guys are really coming along nicely (we see Levi Kirby and Ethan Neally) and John Hughs has guards for days. Like to see one more "go to" score emerge here before I am completely sold.
Things start getting a little murkier in our countdown about right here. My only in-person viewing of Routt at the Waverly Tournament wasn't exactly a smashing success as the Rockets looked like at team playing a 10am Basketball game in their Consolation Championship Game loss to Auburn. Still, this is a team with enviable basketball DNA, even in a loss and a chance to really show out at Winchester this week. The Rocket Bigs (Brent Long and Dylan Jones) are among the most polished and dangerous offensive post players around in that they combine great size with outsize shooting ability. Ryan Lindsey is a tremendous outside threat and there is athleticism on the wing. The talent base here isn't in doubt. But it's time for the Rockets to win a true Red Letter game to prove them belong in the next echelon.
9) FORT MADISON
Yes, I concede that the Bloodhounds got rolled by West Hancock on their own floor and looked listless in doing so. I am not one to buy or make excuses for teams, nor suggest that the final result would have been different, but it was also pretty obvious that night that the flu bug took some toll on Fort Madison in that game. Just saying: the Hounds have been a far better team in every other instance than they showed that night. Great up tempo team with a tremendous looking young point guard in Miles Wentzien and skilled front court guys who run the floor exceedingly well. This is a scary good collection of talent. Just waiting for it to figure out how to put itself over the top.
The Chiefs have all the components to be outstanding, but Jeff Dahl's team has not come remotely close yet to stringing everything it together for more than a quarter and a half at a time yet. Keokuk is like a Ferrari with a timing belt issue. You can see the top end but the Chiefs haven't been dependable in living up to that promise yet. If they ever do get on track, look out. This team has a legitimate dominant big in Kendall Clark. One of the most promising shooting guards to come our way in ages in Jonny Dahl and a collection of unbelievable athletes with Dan Williams and Gabe Vandenberg in play. It's a potent, combustible mix that just needs to...well...combust.
THE THIRD TIER
13) WEST CENTRAL
18) MARION COUNTY
2 3 ) SOUTHEASTERN
1) QUINCY NOTRE DAME
You were expecting somebody, anybody else? Eric Orne's team has played about as strong a pre-Christmas schdule as I can ever remember and hit their annual holiday hiatus with a perfect 9-0 record bolstered by red letter wins over Rock Bridge, Champaign Centennial, Bowling Green and SHG. The rise of both Kristen Gengenbacher and Mary Beth Hugenberg (far more versatile a talent than I realized) have been a nice boon for a team with better depth than you think. But here's your greater indication of just how good QND is: the Lady Raiders boast the area's top two Player of the Year candidates in Jordan Frericks and Kassidy Gengenbacher. I am not sure I have ever covered a team in any sport that bears that distinction. Still plenty of tough road ahead, including a nasty two-step with Springfield and Rolling Meadows at the KHQA/SUBWAY Superfan Shootout but this is a team that looks well heeled for another trophy quest, even in 3A.
2) MONROE CITY
Toss out an ugly shooting night where nothing went right against Clopton and I still think Cody Leonard is your bellwether candidate in any Coach of the Year talk. The Lady Panthers are 11-1 with quality wins over Palmyra and Carrollton, Illinois and thriving despite a lack of real depth or size. Tremendous team speed is a boon with three members of the State Champion Sprint Relay team aboard and the Kiette Mundy/Carly Spalding pairing at guard may be as innately athletic as any we have seen in Northeast Missouri in a long, long time. I love two things about the Lady Panthers going forward. Most obviously, the degree to which every player has accepted, embraced and thrived in their role. See also the way Olivia Crager has become a great swing guard. Or the way Kelly Winking provides tremendous connective tissue. The other, which no one seems to talk about, is just how well/smartly/effectively these girls share the basketball. Great passing teams can overcome a lot of flaws. And clearly this team can really move the basketball.
3) CENTRAL LEE
As I mentioned pre-season, the best constructed team in Tri State Basketball (not named QND anyway) especially now that Traci Keller has spent the last month and a half channeling her inner Kyrie Irving. Not since Mikal Benecomo was driving the Clopton Final Four Banner bus has an "undersized" floor general been this good. Doesn't hurt that Traci can outlet to two of the most physical posts in the Tri States in Taylor Burdette and Jada Mathison (not to mention two scores of Nene type efficiency around the basket) and a stretch player in Jordan Greenfield who stuffs every category of a stat line on a given night. Biggest key here, though, has been the nice development of promising new cogs like Regan Shockley, Bailey McCoy, and Haley Edwards who have really upped the overall ante. Only caveat here is that this team needs to prove it can finish in Red Letter games, which has been the one Achilles Heel here the last two seasons.
4) WEST CENTRAL
Strong finish for Brian Bettis' crew at the Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic (hard to believe 3rd Place was team's highest ever finish) followed up by a nifty road win at Liberty/Payson. The Cougars are salty. Granted, this team's penchant for jacking three point shots from all over the court is a scary "boom or bust" proposition but the Cougars have made this 4 Out/1 In look work well. Much of that has to do with "the one" as Abby Lashmett has been tremendous interior presence who is just so darn clever in finding ways to create scoring space for herself. Not to mention she really hits the boards well. Doesn't hurt either that "The Snipers" (Kelsey Bettis, KayDee Carmody, Rachel Kilver foremost among them) can really snipe. Just a really interesting Basketball fusion going on here and one to date that is working out well.
5) BOWLING GREEN
Bobby Spoonster's crew has played a brutal schedule to open the season and taken some punch in the mouth losses. By the same token, hard to dispute the talent and balance here. From where I stand, this Lady Bobcat squad has the look of a team that surges in the second half based on the number of weapons in play and the overall team athleticism. To be honest, Bowling Green is the one team on this list that seems to have much more in the way of offensive potency than has yet translated. If the shots start falling more regularly, with everything else BG does well, I think you've got plenty of forward potential here.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Boy did the Lady Mustangs hit an awful rough patch in Beardstown. Sometimes, those things just happen. Brad Begeman seemed to right the ship a little coming off the Holidays but I still have some reservations about depth and legs here. As in the Mustangs have looked strangely listless of late. It's a little perplexing. Seems odd that conditioning would be an issue this late but the girls hit the Holiday looking gassed. On paper, still love the seven deep, especially given the star turn Maggie Bowles has made this year in becoming a game changing defender and capable third scorer to go along with Brooklyn Moore and Breanne Begeman.
7) ILLINI WEST
The Chargers have survived a brutal opening of the season to round into a pretty darned thorny looking opponent. Graci Bastert has found her point guard groove. Elyce Trout, Michaela Gronewold, and Aubrie Carlisle may be young, but there are times when all three have flashed really high end ceilings as scorers. And I love the work ethic and toughness Holly McDowell brings in the middle. On nights when it all clicks, the Chargers look really good. Consistency is the buzzword.
The Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the area right now and seem poised for a watershed January. Megan Hooper's return to health seems to be that extra, athletic front court weapon that this team needed. This is a group with ten legitimate players who can score and contribute. Alexis Van Nostrand has done a really credible job finding the player with the hot hand and feeding her. Outside shooting can be very good and Katee Hinkle and Lexie Losson are two of the best junior players I have seen. This is a team, like Bowling Green, that feels like it has found the right trajectory.
Snake bitten by injury. This might be the second best team in our area at full health. As is, the Rockets are still pretty darned good. And Alyssa Garde has had here share of James Harden "I am going to carry this thing" moments that make the Lady Rockets a threat to anyone on a given night.
All that is really missing here is a finishing instinct. I have watch the Lady Eagles in person three different times and have really been impressed with the talent level and the different places this team can hang its hat. Madelyn Hyer has been a revelation as freshman adding front court presence with nearly double double production nicely for a team lacking in height. Lanessa Graham has stepped up her game incredibly to where she is more than just a "have to guard" scorer. Kristen Loos is just a mix of pure fearlessness on the court, perimeter or post. Maranda Neisen doesn't seem to get much ink but she's been a head turner in every game. She is as reliable scorer when needed who has nicely deferred and facilitated her teammates. And Katelyn Wolf just seems to kill opponents every time they forget about her. It's really good starting five. But again, in big spots, this team hasn't yet shown the ability to close out good foes. Sounds like a good New Year's Resolution.
The Third Team
12) MARION COUNTY
14) QUINCY HIGH
15) WEST HANCOCK
18) BROWN COUNTY
20) PITTSFIELD/PLEASANT HILL
23) HOLY TRINITY