Braymer teams, Keytesville boys get set for January season openers

KHS Tigers due to debut at Breckenridge Jan. 7, BHS squads at Keytesville the night after

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Hale/Bosworth Cardinals senior guard Ethan Hoerr, left, watches as his fast-break lob pass clears Norborne defender Keyton Laire so teammate Jaeden Sears (30) can make a mid-air catch near the rim for a lay-in and 34-8 Cardinals lead with just over 1:50 remaining in the second quarter of Hale/Bosworth’s 57-25 home win Dec. 22. The triumph kept long-time head coach Keith Berger’s team perfect in Carroll-Livingston Activity Association play at 2-0 and boosted their overall record to 7-1, equaling the most pre-Christmas wins among C-T-area teams.
  • Only two area squads, among those who have played, remain undefeated
  • Three CLAA boys' teams, two girls yet to taste defeat in conference play

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Way back when, before many schools had girls’ sports teams aside from basketball and track and field and before football took root as a sport a high percentage of Missouri high schools large and small, many of the smaller ones – even some now occupying the Class 2 ranks – which didn’t feel they had the enrollment numbers to play 11-man football – played a bit of fall baseball from late August through very early October, then – sans any state playoffs for baseball – segued quickly into basketball seasons which would see the beginning of regular-season game play from mid-October until late February.

As the number of sports in which high schools host teams proliferated the final 25-30 years of the 20th century and formal postseason playoffs to determine state champions for them emerged, condensed, more-rigidly-regulated season lengths emerged to prevent overlapping demands on some athletes. What once was a 4-1/2--months-plus high school hoops regular season was compacted into something of about three months and a week.

Given that background, it’s easy to grasp how not only historically-abnormal, but indisputably unprecedented, what – thanks to COVID-19 precautionary measures – several high school basketball teams in the C-T coverage area will experience next week will be.

On Thursday, Jan. 7, Keytesville High School’s boys’ basketball Tigers are slated to travel to Breckenridge to face the co-ed Bulldogs in what will be the TIgers’ first game of what technically is their 2020-21 season.

One night later, Friday, Jan. 8, the latest-ever season openers for area high school hoops teams are due to occur when Braymer’s girls and boys make their long, long-delayed 2020-21 and Carroll-Livingston Activity Association debuts at Keytesville.

In the Keytesville boys’ case, a mixture of low male enrollment, turnout, injuries, coronavirus quarantines, and other factors prompted the school to decide to cancel, postpone, or forfeit all of the Tigers’ scheduled December games, even while the Lady Tigers played some of theirs while postponing others.

At Braymer, a Caldwell County and community surge in COVID-19 cases in late November led to the blanket decision to not only delay the start of BHS basketball games play until January, but to cease practices in order to help rein in the spread within the school system and community.

According to BHS girls’ head coach and director of athletics Joe Mallory, practices were restarting this week in anticipation of the Jan. 8 date of the Bobcats’ and Lady ’Cats’ season openers.

If Braymer is able to proceed with play unimpeded by flareups of the virus, it has scheduled or rescheduled its nine CLAA games – although only seven are due to occur prior to the Feb. 6-13 conference tournament – and two non-league outings (with Carrollton and neighbor Polo).

The BHS teams will not participate in the Hamilton Tournament in late January, as originally planned, Mallory confirmed to the C-T Monday.

Under Missouri State High School Activities Association rules, high school basketball teams are allowed as many as 25 regular-season games, a total most programs normally schedule to equal or come within one or two of, barring weather-forced cancellations.

Should the thus-far unseasonably-mild winter give way to far-harsher and more-treacherous conditions in January and February, as has been known to happen, it could be that Braymer could go into postseason action having played as few as nine or 10 games, putting a fitting exclamation point on what hopefully by then will be the beginning-to-fade pandemic as more and more people are vaccinated.

While Braymer’s teams and Keytesville’s boys prepare to take the court for their first game action, most of the other prep programs around the area will enter 2021 with between four and eight contests under their respective belts.

As the new year dawns, it finds only two area squads – one boys’, one girls’ – still sporting perfect records.

Mendon: Northwestern’s Eagles, who haven’t competed since Dec. 10, stand 6-0, including registering a forfeit triumph over Keytesville. Norborne’s Lady Pirates cross into the new year at 3-0, but with two of its victims having not won a contested game and the third at only a shaky .500.

The area teams with the most victories during the 2020 portion of the season are Hale/Bosworth’s Cardinals, Meadville’s Lady Eagles, and Polo’s Lady Panthers, all 7-1 at present.

Chillicothe’s girls are off to a highly-impressive 5-1 start, which surprisingly prompted selectors in the Missouri High School Basketball Coaches Association’s polling system to slot them at No. 9 in Class 4 in rankings announced late last week. The CHS boys head into January with a solid 3-2 mark.

As for early developments in small-school conference races, as anticipated, Tina-Avalon and defending champ Norborne are showing the way in the CLAA girls’ race  – T-A at 3-0 in the loop and Norborne at 1-0, while the boys’ side has three league unbeatens (not including Braymer or Keytesville) in defending co-champ Southwest Livingston, Northwestern, and Hale/Bosworth. Southwest has three wins banked and the others two each.

In the Tri-County Conference, both Meadville teams possess 2-1 marks with their losses to Atlanta. Both Linn County High teams are under .500 after three league outings.

In the KCI Conference, Hamilton: Penney’s boys opened with a home win over North Platte, while the girls lost their league opener.

In the Harrison-Daviess Conference (HDC), Jamesport: Tri-County’s girls, hopeful of being factors in the title chase again, took their only loop contest to date, while the Mustangs lost.

In the Grand River Conference-East, the Polo girls’ only defeat was at league foe Putnam County in the first of their two league outings. PHS’ Panthers are winless overall.

All or nearly all of the area teams which played during November or December will resume their seasons early next week. Two – Meadville and Norborne – will be in tournament action at Salisbury.