Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
TONY HAWLEY ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE
Now in its fifth incarnation, the Missouri National Guard Shootout has enough years behind it that it’s becoming more and more rare to find an area team that hasn’t played in it.
So it’s especially noteworthy when you look at this year’s schedule and not only find two such schools, but see they’ll be playing each other.
That’s the case for the Jamestown and Calvary Lutheran boys, who square off at noon on Dec. 20 at Fleming Fieldhouse.
Brannon Bartlett, who’s in his second year as head coach of Jamestown, said the Eagles have been taking strides toward creating a winning culture and this will help in that chase.
“You tell the guys that we are going to change the whole program and we are going to try to get into stuff like this, but you don’t just get to sign up for it,” Bartlett said during a press conference for the event Wednesday. “You have to go and earn it … and opportunities like this are great. This means a lot.”
The Eagles have also been asked to play in the Gary Filbert Classic, hosted by Mexico High School in January.
“The two events are both great opportunities for us, because we’re trying to increase our quality of competition,” Bartlett said. “We’re going to go and play some bigger schools in the future.”
Calvary head coach Mark Buffington said the Lions are thrilled to be part of the event.
“This is great for our program, to be able to come to something like this,” he said. “We just hope we can come and play well.
“It’s great exposure for our kids, a different gym, a great atmosphere. Most, if not all, of them haven’t been part of something like this.”
Calvary hosted Jamestown last season for Homecoming, a game Buffington said was a good showcase for both schools.
“We’re off to a little bit of a slow start this year, but we had a great game with Jamestown last year and hopefully we can get this turned around and play half as well as we did last year,” he said. “Jamestown has got a nice team and it’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
The second boys game of the day — a 3 p.m. contest — features between the Harrisburg Bulldogs and Green Ridge Tigers. The Bulldogs will be making their third appearance in the event, while the Tigers are another first-time participant under former St. Elizabeth head coach Jason Ollison.
It’s a different story in the third and final boys game of the day, a 6 p.m. contest between the California Pintos and the Hermann Bearcats. Not only are both schools familiar faces in the event, but this will mark the third straight year they’ve squared off in the Shootout.
The Pintos are hoping for a different result this year, as Hermann has won close games in the previous two Shootouts.
California has nine seniors this year, the highest number coach Blair Scanlon has ever had. Five of the seniors are new to varsity play.
For the third straight year, many Pintos started a few weeks behind. The California football team reached the state semifinals, which overlapped with the beginning of basketball practices.
“Our defense is pretty good, but our offense is coming along slowly,” Scanlon said. “It takes a while for our guys to get going because they’re so rusty from having a fall sport.”
Jaden Barr is a two-time all-conference and all-district player, and Damon Shaw, Drew Norton and Landon Mouse bring experience to the Pintos. California finished second in the Tri-County Conference last season, finishing 18-8 overall and reaching district semifinals.
Scanlon likes the shootout, because it provides a good beginning to the team’s off time for the holiday season.
“Anytime you play a shootout before Christmas, it’s kind of a jumpstart to Christmas break,” he said. “Get a win, get some motivation, get better. Our Christmas break is very important to us. It’s kind of our second part of the season to get going, because our guys miss so much at the beginning. The team who wins moves on has a good Christmas break. If you don’t, it kind of comes on a sour note, so that’s the biggest thing from it.”
The Pintos have won both of their contests to start the season and face Russellville on Friday.
“We’ve played two games, but guys are trying to find themselves, what they’re good at and what they’re not, the chemistry together,” Scanlon said. “That’s the biggest thing. Everybody’s in the same boat right now. They’ve played maybe three, four, five games. It’s just so early. Basketball’s such a long year. You want to make sure they’ve got their roles defined and just playing together well.”