This year, Kickapoo is again a strong challenger, and the Lady Chiefs will be emotionally driven by the recent resignation of head coach Stephanie Phillips to concentrate on her battle with cancer.
Kickapoo isn't the only district challenger on the girls side. Nixa's neighborhood rival Ozark is poised for an upset attempt, Springfield Glendale is a darkhorse, and Springfield Parkview is much improved and hosting the district on its own home floor.
The Class 5, District 11 boys side is just as unpredictable. It features a pair of state-ranked teams in Nixa and Branson, who split their regular season meetings, with Branson winning at the Blue & Gold Tournament and Nixa taking the regular season finale -- in Branson no less. Branson will enter the playoffs as the top seed, but every team in the district is solid and above .500, whether its sixth seed Glendale, fifth seed Kickapoo, fourth seed Ozark, third seed Parkview or second seed Nixa. It truly is a district where any team could come out the winner in the one-loss-and-out format.
Springfield Hillcrest is the top boys seed in Class 5, District 12, which also includes second seed Joplin and third seed Willard. That district takes place at Carthage, where Willard is the top girls seed, with Carthage second and Springfield Hillcrest third.
Camdenton is host to the Class 5, District 10 tournament, where Jefferson City is the number one seed on the boys side. Waynesville is second, followed by Camdenton, Lebanon and Rolla. Jefferson City is also the top seed on the girls side, followed by Rolla, Camdenton, Lebanon, and Waynesville.
In Class 4, Rogersville will host the District 10 playoffs, where Bolivar is the top boys seed with the home-standing Wildcats being the number two seed. West Plains, a strong candidate for a long run in the playoffs, is the number one girls seed but Marshfield, a tradition-rich girls program, is looming as the number two seed.
Republic hosts the District 11 playoff, with the hometown Tigers the top boys seed. The Tiger girls are a number two seed behind McDonald County.
It should be quite an interesting week with plenty of surprises. The smaller classification schools start their districts next week with a few preliminary round games on Saturday.