High school basketball this season took the Daily News to places as varied as Pea Ridge, Arkansas and Jay, Oklahoma and Mount Vernon, and don’t forget the elite Neosho Holiday Classic that brought in teams as diverse as Benjamin Banneker from Brooklyn and Cypress Falls from Houston, Texas.
Our five core coverage area teams included some of the best players in Southwest Missouri.
Seneca, under veteran head coach Will King, enjoyed its first winning season since the 2013-14 season. The Indians finished with a 15-12 overall record and their 15 wins represented the highest number in the Daily News core coverage area.
East Newton finished 11-14, McDonald County 11-17, Neosho 6-20, and Diamond 4-21.
The Patriots of East Newton and the Mustangs of McDonald County had their different hot stretches of the season — as did Seneca, for that matter.
East Newton nearly won more games in December than it had all of the previous season — going 6-4 entering the new year — and the Patriots were a high-octane offensive team in December with all six wins seeing the Patriots score nothing below 76 points. Even in a loss, East Newton scored 89 points.
McDonald County proved a streaky team — six straight losses, followed by three straight wins, two losses, one win, four losses, five wins, three losses, and then alternating win-loss the last four games. During that five-game winning streak, McDonald County especially began flexing its muscle inside with junior Cooper Reece and senior Tim Shields.
Neosho had two of the more exciting wins all season — see Cole Seward’s profile below — and the Wildcats featured one of the more dynamic duos in the area in Brady Wise and A.C. Marion.
Diamond featured a lot of younger players earning their first varsity minutes and the Wildcats could be a team to watch again in future years.
Here follows the 12 selections to the All-Daily News Team, filling out boys basketball after the 12 selected for girls basketball and the 14 picked for wrestling.
Gavin Clouse, Seneca
Clouse made all kinds of big plays for the Indians during his junior season, including stepping in and taking a charge on the defensive end or knocking down a key outside shot on the offensive side. For example, in a 75-74 double overtime win at home over Newton County rival Neosho, Clouse was one of four Seneca players in double-digits with 15 points, then on the defensive side, Clouse took a key charge against Neosho’s Cole Seward, one of three Neosho players who fouled out and who combined for 65 of the Wildcats’ 74 points.
Gavin Dunnam, Seneca
Dunnam, who joined Cameron Brattin as four-year varsity starters, closed out his career by taking on a leadership role for the Indians. In his final game, Dunnam scored 15 points against Lamar. Dunnam helped the Indians earn two wins his senior season against Neosho and in the 75-74 double overtime win in mid-December, Dunnam scored a team-high 20 points, leading a balanced offensive attack that found four players in double figures and six scoring at least seven points. Dunnam proved himself to be a tough guard his senior season, with his ability to step outside and knock down shots a solid addition to his game.
Blake Gravette, McDonald County
Gravette became one of the top 3-point shooters in the area his junior season, averaging 2.2 3-point field goals made and 7.5 attempts per game. Gravette averaged 11 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.8 steals per game. In a 64-57 win over Lamar in the 13th place game in the Neosho Holiday Classic, Gravette knocked down six 3-point shots en route to 22 points. Gravette made 15 3-point shots over four games in the Holiday Classic and he made four against both Benjamin Banneker and Van Buren. Gravette finished second in the Holiday Classic 3-point shooting contest.
Connor Killion, East Newton
Killion stepped up on the big stage his freshman season and came through with averages of 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks. Killion proved himself to be a scoring threat from the minute he stepped on the court, making 67 3-point shots overall and shooting 40 percent overall from long range. Killion also shot 42 percent from the field and 68 percent from the stripe. In the final game of the season, a 94-84 overtime loss to Stockton in the district tournament, Killion netted a team-high 32 points behind nine 3-point shots.
A.C. Marion, Neosho
Marion shifted from being a perimeter player his first two seasons to an interior player for his first season playing extended minutes at the varsity level, and despite being at a height and size disadvantage in basically every game, Marion produced 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Marion scored in double-digits in 21 of the Wildcats’ 26 games and grabbed at least 10 rebounds on nine different occasions. Marion scored a season-high 22 points twice, against Cassville and Webb City, and snagged a season-high 15 rebounds in the win over Memphis Middle College.
Dustin McDermott, East Newton
In his senior campaign, McDermott averaged 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game, and shot nearly 60 percent from the floor and 51 percent at the stripe. In his final game, against Stockton at districts, McDermott produced 14 points. A highlight for McDermott his senior season was a breakaway monster dunk in the Southwest Tournament.
Cooper Reece, McDonald County
Reece averaged nearly a double-double his junior season with 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds both leading the way for the Mustangs. Reece shot nearly 51 percent from the field, including 55 percent from two-point range and 26 percent from 3-point range. Reece averaged three offensive rebounds per game. In a 56-53 win for the Mustangs against Benjamin Banneker in the Neosho Holiday Classic, Reece finished with 22 points, six rebounds, two assists, four steals, and two blocked shots, and finished with four personal fouls, avoiding fouling out.
Brett Reeves, Seneca
Reeves started his senior season in style with 18 points in a 61-55 win over Neosho in the 71st annual Carthage Invitational. This win announced it would be a different season for the Indians, who had scored a combined 56 points in their two previous season openers, 40 the season before against Joplin and 16 two seasons before against McDonald County. The Indians placed third in the Carthage and Jay (Oklahoma) tournaments, and defended their home tournament title with a 3-0 run through Diamond, Miami, and Monett. Reeves hit a big 3-point shot in districts against El Dorado Springs. Seneca head coach Will King called Reeves the team’s most improved player.
Hunter Renfro, Diamond
Renfro averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game in his senior campaign. In a season-opening 61-49 win over Southwest, Renfro had a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds and then, in the next game, Renfro came back with a second double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, plus six steals, two assists, and three blocked shots, in a 69-61 loss to Thomas Jefferson.
Cole Seward, Neosho
You could just as well call Seward “Big Shot,” since he knocked down game-winning buzzer-beating shots against Memphis Sheffield in the Neosho Holiday Classic and then Willard in a Central Ozark Conference Large contest. Seward hit a 17-foot fadeaway jumper for the win against Sheffield and a driving layup at the buzzer against Willard. Seward averaged 8.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.
Tim Shields, McDonald County
Shields came on strong in the latter portion of his senior season and emerged as a counterpoint to junior Cooper Reece to give the Mustangs one of the strongest interior games in the area. Shields averaged 5.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and a team-high 1.1 blocked shots per game, and he shot 50.5 percent from the floor overall. Shields took four charges on the season, two behind team leader Reece. Offensively, Shields produced a career-high 25 points in a 60-45 win over East Newton on the Patriots’ homecoming.
Brady Wise, Neosho
Wise, who played in 24 of Neosho’s 26 games this season, averaged 18.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 0.5 blocks per game. He scored a career-high 33 points in an early January win over Newton County rival East Newton, beating out the 32 points he scored against both McDonald County and Memphis Middle College. All three 30-plus point nights came on Neosho wins. Wise played through knee issues all season, having surgery on his right knee on down time before the Neosho Holiday Classic. Wise scored double-digits in 21 of his 24 games played, despite being the focal point for every opposing defense. Wise earned both all-conference and all-district honors.