Suddenly, there’s much more than hope Brian McTague will bring high-quality basketball back to Branson. There’s a guarantee he’ll do as much.
At least, the inaugural Ozark Mountain Shootout on Dec. 14-15 promises to deliver championship-caliber play, given the resumes of the field’s 16 teams.
McTague, in his first year at Branson, and the Pirates will host Jefferson City Helias, Scott County Central, Nixa, Summit Christian Academy, Billings, Clever, Forsyth, Trinity (Ark.), Brentwood, Fair Grove, Springfield Glendale, Mt. Vernon, Blue Springs South, Harrison (Ark.) and Springfield Hillcrest.
“Coach McTague had put this all together when he was at Clever and they were going to do it there,” Branson athletic director Tony Berry said. “When we hired him, he asked if he could bring the shootout to Branson.”
Last season, Nixa was the Class 5 state runner-up, Blue Springs South was a Class 5 quarterfinalist, Hillcrest was the Class 4 runner-up, Helias a Class 4 quarterfinalist, Mt. Vernon was a Class 3 semifinalist, Billings claimed the Class 2 state title and Scott County Central won the Class 1 state championship.
Notable players on hand — all all-staters last season — will be Nixa’s Jalen Norman and Austin Ruder, Billings’ Austin Essick and Brady Chastain, Harrison’s Alex Rose and Mt. Vernon’s Shane Williams.
Norman has received scholarship offers from Missouri State and Yale and Ruder has committed to the Bears.
From the by the way file, Blue Springs South coach Jimmy Cain and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh are brothers-in-law.
Branson will be pitted against Helias on Dec. 14. in what will be the Pirates’ home-opener. They will welcome back starters Chandler Hall, Thatch Unruh and DaQuan Ervin from last season’s 9-18 outfit.
The Shootout will consist of four games each day.
Branson’s schedule will also include the Camdenton Shootout, along with the Forsyth Tournament, Blue & Gold Tournament and Sedalia Smith-Cotton Tournament.
The Pirates will have only two home dates through the second week of January and close their regular-season slate with three straight road contests.
In other hoops news, the Missouri State High Schools Activities Association announced earlier this week district assignments.
There will be one less team for Branson to get past in the post-season. The Class 5 District 11 field has been trimmed to five teams. Springfield Parkview was designated elsewhere, but Branson will again be matched up with Nixa, Ozark, Springfield Glendale and Springfield Kickapoo.
The top seed will receive a first-round bye.
The district site has not been named, but Branson is at the front of the line to serve as host. The district has alternated sites between Ozark Conference and Central Ozark Conference schools the past four years, with Ozark, Parkview, Nixa and Glendale each already having taken their turns. Glendale moved the semifinal and final rounds to Drury last season.
“We’re hopeful,” Berry said of Branson hosting.
Branson last played a post-season game at home while serving as Class 4 District 11 hosts in 2008.
Reeds Spring has a new district assignment. The Wolves and Lady Wolves are in Class 4 District 11, after being in Class 4 District 12 the past two seasons.
Reeds Spring is paired up with fellow COC members Republic and Rogersville, along with Aurora, Cassville and West Plains.
On the boys side, none of those six won a district title last winter. On the girls side, Republic is the reigning Class 4 state champion and features College of the Ozarks commit Alice Heinzler.
There are no changes in Class 3 District 11, which will again be made up of Forsyth, Hollister, Blue Eye, Fair Grove, Strafford, Conway and Springfield Catholic.
The district assignments will be in effect for the 2012-‘13 and 2013-‘14 seasons.