Three players each from McDonald County and East Newton led the way for the All-Daily News Boys Basketball Team. Neosho, Seneca and Diamond each had two players on the team.

Three players each from McDonald County and East Newton led the way for the All-Daily News Boys Basketball Team. Neosho, Seneca and Diamond each had two players on the team.

Daton Aubrey, McDonald County
Big 8 Conference player of the year Aubrey earned all-tournament honors for the Neosho Holiday Classic and helped the Mustangs finish 3-1 and ninth place in the loaded 16-team field, one that included then No. 1 in the nation Atascocita (Texas).
Aubrey ranked fifth in the tournament in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game, trailing Atascocita’s Carsen Edwards (24.8), Memphis Mitchell’s Tevin Olison (21.3), Van Buren’s Beau Beckner (20.5) and Atascocita’s Fabian White (19.0). He also ranked fifth in rebounding with 7.3 per game, a rebound per game behind fellow all-Big 8 first team selection and tournament leader, East Newton senior forward Ethan Heilig. Aubrey’s nine offensive rebounds ranked third.
As a bonus treat, Aubrey made the finals of the Holiday Classic’s slam dunk competition, navigating his way through two rounds to the finals with Atascocita’s Greg Shead and White. Shead, a 5-foot-11 guard, won the event in spectacular fashion on his last dunk.
Aubrey scored 25 points in the Big 8 title clincher against Lamar. The Mustangs won their first Big 8 title in only their second season in the conference and finished 8-0, with victories over Mount Vernon (71-53), Monett (61-33), Seneca (48-36), Cassville (59-35), East Newton (47-45), Lamar (66-47), Aurora (46-38) and Carl Junction (56-36).
McDonald County started five seniors predominantly all season: Aubrey, Max Dill, Drew Harmon, Kole Keith and Dagan Stites.
“We don’t want to put any pressure on this team,” McDonald County head coach Trent Barratt said before the season. “We don’t need any pressure. I’ve told them that the only thing you can control is to play Mustang basketball every time we hit the floor. You play your role, you do it as hard as you can, you have a lot of chemistry and at the end of the game, you live with the result. This group has really come together and I’ve been proud of their effort.”
McDonald County’s 21-6 mark this season was the best during Barratt’s tenure since he took over in 2011.

Cameron Brattin, Seneca
Brattin, along with Gavin Dunnam, provided the interior muscle for a much-improved Seneca team that won eight games and the Lancer Classic after three straight wins over Kansas schools, Southeast (48-28), Baxter Springs (48-42) and Parsons (49-45). Brattin and Dunnam worked the high-low to perfection against Parsons.
“It has been good for us,” Seneca head coach Will King said of the Brattin and Dunnam connection. “We have some different combinations. Those bigs can do some different things. Then, at times, our guards. I just think we’re a balanced team and unselfish. They don’t care who gets the credit. They’re just good, happy go-lucky kids that like to have some fun.”
Brattin, along with Zack Dunnam, earned all-tournament honors in the Lancer Classic.
Overall, Seneca doubled its wins from the previous season and the Indians’ roster this season featured no seniors. In other words, things should be looking up in Seneca.

Zack Dunnam, Seneca
Dunnam, the engine that made the Indians go, earned all-Lancer Classic honors and he scored a team-high 14 points in the championship game win over Parsons. His layup at the first half buzzer gave the Indians a 24-24 halftime lead and he knocked down the shot that gave the Indians the lead back for good at 42-41 in a 49-45 win.
Seneca entered the Lancer Classic as the No. 6 seed and left it as No. 1.
“It’s amazing,” King said after the Parsons game. “Our kids needed this. We’ve gradually gotten better all year. We’ve even lost some heartaches, some close ones. Lost to Carl (Junction) in a close one last week, so we knew we were getting close. Just don’t give up and good things will come. This is a great week. This is basically the same group that we had last year and we took a lot of thumps. We’re slowly gaining some confidence now and this will be wonderful for our confidence. Don’t get me wrong. We still have a long way to go. Our Big 8 Conference is so tough and we’re going to get back into that real soon, but this was great for our kids. I love these kids.”

Drew Harmon, McDonald County
Harmon, who made several clutch shots during his varsity career, made the all-tournament team of the Kaminsky Classic, another third place finish for the Mustangs. Harmon scored 22 points in the 69-48 win over Wichita Word of Life, 10 in a 52-41 loss to St. Louis Christian and 11 points in a 56-48 win over Joplin for third. Harmon averaged 14.3 points.
In a 47-45 win over East Newton, the all-conference first team point guard hit the winning shot late in regulation.
Harmon made five free throws late in a Carthage Invitational win over Rogers, after the Mustangs had a stretch of six missed free throws in seven attempts.
“He’s the one that I want the ball in his hands,” Barratt said of Harmon. “He knows that. He’s worked on his game a lot. He’s hit big free throws in the past in big games, so I’m happy for these guys. It’s a great group that I love to coach.”

Josh Harris, East Newton
One of the burning questions for East Newton entering this season was who would step in and take over the point guard position after the graduation of Deion Clark.
Harris was one of the players who helped answer that question, averaging 8.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Cassville and had 18 points, three rebounds and three assists against Clever.
The Patriots, like McDonald County, featured a senior-heavy lineup with Harris, Ethan Heilig, Jake Patterson, Tyler Winsauer and Dalton Zimmerman. East Newton won its first district title since 1976 with a 39-37 win over Lamar on Zimmerman’s late 3-point shot and the Patriots nearly upended a state-ranked Fair Grove squad that entered sectionals with a 25-4 overall record, before falling 47-38.
East Newton peaked at the right time during a 18-12 season, winning seven games in a row before their loss to Fair Grove.
“That’s what these kids have done,” Fields said after the district title win. “They’re just workers and they’re so close. It’s a tight-knit group. They all love one another and that’s what makes this so sweet.”

Ethan Heilig, East Newton
Heilig averaged 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks during his memorable senior campaign.
In the 39-37 district final win over Lamar, Heilig produced 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots, and helped the Patriots hold the Tigers to only four points in the second quarter. East Newton built a 25-11 halftime lead. Heilig’s length played a key role in the Patriots’ defense against Lamar and Fair Grove.
Heilig scored a season-high 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the 57-54 loss to Lamar in the regular season and scored 26 points against Monett, 24 against Kansas, 23 each against McDonald County and Marshfield, 22 against Neosho, 21 against Purdy and 20 against Jay.
In the Neosho Holiday Classic, all-tournament selection Heilig led in rebounding with 8.3 per game, edging out Atascocita’s 6-9 White by a single rebound. Heilig grabbed 24 defensive and nine offensive rebounds.
“It’s going to be tough on him this year,” Fields said before the season. “Teams put their best on Bryce (Zimmerman) night in, night out last year and Ethan’s going to get that this year. Ethan’s a tough kid and he’ll deal with it real well. He’s really worked on his game. His perimeter shooting’s got better. His feet have got better.”

Connor Johnson, Neosho
Johnson averaged a team-high 9.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal per game his junior season. Johnson proved to be a dangerous 3-point threat, making 66 of 167 (40 percent) on the season with a 3-point made in 27 of 28 games this season.
Additionally, Johnson finished 76 percent (39-51) at the line, ending the season with 15 consecutive makes, including four straight against Joplin in the Class 5, District 12 tournament at Kaminsky Gymnasium. Johnson also finished his season with five straight double-digit games, 11 points against both Willard and Webb City, 10 against Nixa (Neosho only managed 22 against the Eagles), 16 against Joplin and 13 against Republic. Over his last 11 games, Johnson made 32 3-point shots.
“You can’t say enough about Connor Johnson,” Neosho head coach Jason Horn said after the district win over Joplin. “The dude’s got ice water in his veins. He’s clutch on the free-throw line, and I’ll put him up shooting against anybody in the area. It was a one-point game, I believe, on both of those threes in the second half. He did a really good job, and our guys did a good job freeing him up and they knew to get the ball to him. When he’s in that zone, you’ve got to let him go.”
Johnson also proved himself to be Neosho’s best man-to-man defender, for example his performance in early December at home against Monett’s sharpshooter Logan Coones in a 64-60 win for the Wildcats.
“I’ve got to give Connor Johnson a lot of credit,” Horn said. “He did a really good job on maybe the best guard in Southwest Missouri. The kid’s hit 140 threes in two seasons. He’s a prolific scorer and he torched us the last game. I don’t know what he finished with this game, but I know Connor crowded his face and followed the scouting report, and did one heckuva job on him.”

Kole Keith, McDonald County
Keith, who did a lot of dirty work for the Mustangs, came on strong offensively his senior season, highlighted by games like 18 points against Monett, 17 each against Morrilton and Joplin, and 13 against St. Mary’s Colgan.
Keith was definitely a favorite of the raucous and rowdy McDonald County student section. For example, after McDonald County’s 57-54 Homecoming win over rival Neosho, Keith ran into the student section, who mobbed the jubilant senior. Keith finished with 14 points in the game and had a key late offensive rebound and putback.
“A lot of guys stepped up in crucial times and hit shots,” Barratt said. “Man, Kole Keith came up with huge play after huge play and I was really proud of how we responded after a team came in here and gave us one of their best shots.”
Another memorable home performance for Keith was against Joplin in mid-December. Keith scored 15 points, including 10 in the first quarter on a series of layups. When Joplin’s Spencer Newell hit a 3-point shot to start the second quarter, that was the first time in the game that had the Eagles had more points than Keith.
“That’s Kole Keith’s game,” Barratt said. “He’s a screener. He’s a roller. He’s a trash man. He’s the energy guy. That’s what he needs to bring to the table.”

Carter Prewitt, Diamond
Prewitt, an all-around player who earned all-Spring River Valley Conference first team, averaged 13.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals in the first 14 games of the season.
Over a five-game stretch in January, Prewitt scored 28 points against College Heights, 17 against Seneca, 18 against Purdy, 14 against Miller and 17 against Pierce City, as the Wildcats finished 4-1 during this stretch, one of their best of the season.
Prewitt had eight rebounds in three straight games against Seneca, Purdy and Miller and his stat line against College Heights included 28 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Prewitt came up with five steals in a December loss against Seneca.
The Wildcats finished 11-15 overall and 6-3 in the SRVC under first-year head coach Jacob Srigley.

Coleman Scott, Neosho
Scott ranked fifth on the Wildcats with 7.5 points per game, but he led the team with five assists per game and added 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
The junior point guard dished out a season-high 10 assists for a double-double, coupled with 12 points, in the 57-54 loss to McDonald County. On three other occasions, against Monett, Lebanon and Bixby, Scott dished out nine assists and he had eight assists in games against Cassville, Seneca and Joplin.
Scott himself scored a season-high 23 points against Branson and had 17 in back-to-back wins against Rogers and Monett in early December.
“Did a good job of getting the basketball inside,” Horn said after the Branson game. “Again, he played with pace. He let the game come to him. He didn’t force any shots. He had his head up, finding guys when they were open and he found driving lanes, got inside, made some plays. He started shooting the ball really well. He struggled a little bit early in the year, but he’s starting to come on from the middle of the year to now.”

Triston Shepherd, Diamond
Shepherd, who enjoyed a breakout season on the gridiron in the fall, averaged 12.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.4 steals and nearly a blocked shot per game in the first 14 games of the season.
Shepherd had 24 points against Southwest in the season opener, 20 against Monett, 18 against Crane and 16 against Purdy. Additionally, he grabbed 14 rebounds against Carne, 10 against Lamar and 10 against Monett for three double-double performances. Shepherd narrowly missed a pair of double-doubles against Pierce City: nine points and nine rebounds in the first meeting and 14 points and nine rebounds in the second.
In a 57-48 win over Seneca, Shepherd had 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and five blocked shots, as he proved a consistent challenge to any Seneca shot.

Tyler Winsauer, East Newton
Winsauer averaged 9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He scored 23 points against Marshfield, 19 against Cassville and 18 each against Springdale Har-Ber, Jay and Kansas.
Along with fellow seniors Harris, Heilig, Patterson and Zimmerman, Winsauer helped the Patriots climb over the district finals hurdle after title game losses the previous two seasons.
“Hopefully, these young kids can see the leadership of these seniors,” Fields said, “and fill those footsteps for years to come.
“All year long, we just defend. We just play stinking hard. Our kids, they’re a gritty, tough bunch and they play together. They love the game. They love each other. If you have that, you can compete with anybody.”