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Elementary basketball entering stretch run

Dibrell and Morrison will play a doubleheader Thursday to decide first place in 7-8 boys basketball.

Basketball fans hope the snow goes away. They know there is so many important games still to play.

There are so many things still to sort out in 7-8 grade elementary basketball, which still has two boys teams undefeated and a girls team fighting for perfection in the regular season. The Dibrell Wildcats and Morrison Eagles are carrying unblemished boys marks, while the Morrison Lady Eagles have made it to the halfway point of their schedule 5-0.

If Warren County can make it through the week without anymore snow or severe weather, basketball fanatics will finally get to see the Wildcats and Eagles on the court together. In a weird twist of events, it will be a doubleheader on Thursday, where the teams will complete their regular season series in one night.

Because of water damage to its gym, Morrison won’t be playing any more home games this season. That left the school scrambling to reschedule games, which was only made tougher when the first two days of games in January were snowed out (one of those games being the first scheduled meeting with Dibrell). Needing to find a way to get in games, the schools decided to play four straight games Thursday, starting at 4 p.m. The Eagles and Wildcats are scheduled to meet at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m.

There is no guarantee those teams will still be undefeated by the time they finally clash. Dibrell will have to get through Irving College Tuesday first – no small feat for the Wildcats. Dibrell needed two overtimes to top the pesky Tigers this week, which – along with a 52-13 win over Boyd Thursday – propelled the Wildcats into the top spot.

(Editor's Note: after posting the story, it was noted Tuesday's Dibrell-IC game has been moved to Monday, Jan. 24)

Dibrell is currently 6-0, while Morrison is 5-0 after its 48-5 victory over Boyd last Monday. The Eagles aren’t scheduled to play again until Thursday, giving the team over 10 days to prepare for a showdown with the Wildcats. There has already been one epic clash between the programs, coming in the Morrison Ruritan preseason tournament finals. Dibrell won in thrilling fashion, 34-32.

When the teams collide Thursday, three of the league’s top scorers should be on the court. Kristopher and Isaiah Robledo, brothers forming a lethal tag-team tandem in the Morrison backcourt, are currently second and fifth, respectively, in the league in scoring. Kristopher is averaging 14.6 points per game, while Isaiah also is putting up double figures nightly (10.2 ppg).

Morrison also can lean on Braxton Gibbs and Braden Haggins, who have flashed this season as well. Haggins was the team’s leading scorer in the romp over Boyd last week, finishing with 10 points.

Chance Whitlock is the center of the Wildcat attack, quite literally. Dibrell’s star center fuels the team on both ends, blocking shots and grabbing boards on defense while getting buckets around the rim on offense. Whitlock is ranked third in the league in scoring, dropping 12.0 points per night.

With its toughest week ahead, Dibrell may be getting healthy at the perfect time. Syler Simmons missed last week’s game against Irving College, but he was back in uniform Thursday when the Wildcats walloped Boyd. The flu bug that bit the team in December seems to have run its course as well, with coach Dustin Curtis hopeful he can get back to his normal rotation.

Guard Lee-Allen Esparza, coming off a 10-point game against Boyd, will be tested by the Tigers and Eagles this week. Esparza has been up to the task this year, ranking in the top 10 in scoring (7.3 ppg) while playing tenacious defense of his own.

Dibrell can also lean on Kaden Pendergraph, Jace Matheney, Kobe Brand and Evan Tittsworth. The quartet of key role players were a big reason why the Wildcats were able to hold off the Tigers in double OT last week.

Irving College (4-2) didn’t waste time getting back to its winning ways. Just days after dropping a heartbreaker at home, the Tigers rebounded to trounce Centertown 47-15. It completed a 2-1 week for the Tigers as they had previously beaten Eastside 43-13 last Monday.

The Tigers possess arguably the best inside-out combo in the league, PG Corban Felton and post Brayden Snider. Felton is the league’s leading scorer, putting up 16.5 points per game. The top Tiger guard hit a different level last week, scoring 18 points twice while dropping a season-high 20 points in the win against Eastside (it was just the second 20-point game for a boy this season – Whitlock scored 20 against Centertown Dec. 9).

Snider has exploded on the scene this year, scoring 11.7 points per game for the Tigers. That mark is good for fourth in the league. Snider’s emergence has given the Tigers much-needed balance to their attack, which has revolved around Felton’s sensational scoring for years. Snider gives Irving College an ace up its sleeve – a big man who can get buckets in bunches.

The Tigers are scheduled to make the trip to Boyd Thursday, Jan. 20.

Eastside (2-4) pushed its way into fourth place by beating Centertown (1-6) last week. Boyd (0-6) is still in search for its first victory this season.

In girls play, teams are still waiting for their chances to end Morrison’s run of perfection in the 2021-22 season. The Lady Eagles have followed up their Morrison Ruritan preseason championship with five straight wins this season, including beating Boyd 47-6 last Monday. Morrison will put its unbeaten streak on the line Thursday in a doubleheader Thursday at Dibrell.

The Lady Eagles are armed with two of the league’s top scorers – PG Jayla Garibaldi and forward Harmoni Kennerly. Garibaldi, a terrifying lefty who has made a living slicing and dicing defenses this year, is second in the league at 15.8 ppg, while Kennerly is fourth at 11.4 ppg.

Chloe Wanamaker also ranks in the top 10 of scorers in the elementary girls league and is coming off a season-best nine points in the Boyd blowout.

Eastside’s splendid sixth grader Sarah Kate Winfree still leads the league in scoring, putting in 19.2 points per game for the third-place Lady Bulldogs. Eastside stands at 4-2 this year after falling to Centertown and beating Irving College last week.

Dibrell’s Maddox Adams (11.6 ppg) and Centertown center Kealey Simpson (11.4 ppg) round out the top five scorers in the league.

Adams made her debut on the list after scoring in double figures in all three of Dibrell’s games last week, including a 16-point performance in a win over Irving College and scoring 15 points to help the Lady Wildcats beat Boyd Thursday. Dibrell has moved up to fourth in the league with a 3-3 record and will face Irving College Tuesday before its doubleheader with No. 1 Morrison Thursday.

Simpson and the Lady Warriors solidified their top-two spot with three wins last week, including topping Eastside in a battle for second place. Centertown pulled off its third victory Thursday despite missing its coach, Kelly Eckenrod. Nikki Reynolds filled in on the sidelines and led the Lady Wildcats to a 43-19 win over Irving College, highlighted by Simpson’s season-high 17 points and a 12-point performance from Allie Melton.

Interim coach Reynolds has noted she intends to “retire with a perfect record,” after stepping up in Eckenrod’s absence Thursday.

Centertown was dealt a blow last week though when it learned PG Trinity Reynolds would be sidelined the rest of the season. Reynolds was coming off a 15-point performance in a win over Dibrell when she broke her arm against Eastside.

Irving College and Boyd are still winless this season at 0-6, but one squad won’t be winless by Thursday. The Lady Tigers and Lady Broncos are scheduled to meet Thursday at 6 p.m.

Elementary boys standings

1. Dibrell 6-0

2. Morrison 5-0

3. Irving College 4-2

4. Eastside 2-4

5. Centertown 1-6

6. Boyd 0-6

Elementary girls standings

1. Morrison 5-0

2. Centertown 6-1

3. Eastside 4-2

4. Dibrell 3-3

T5. Boyd 0-6

T5. Irving College 0-6

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