‘Cats cruising toward competitive district playoffs

Coach: Cassville playing best ball late in season

BY KYLE TROUTMAN ktroutman@cassville-democrat.com

Every basketball team wants to be playing their best at the season’s end, and with a highly competitive Class 4, District 12 tournament on the horizon, Caleb Reynolds, Cassville boys hoops coach, said his Wildcats are doing just that.

As of Monday night, Cassville (11-12) is riding a three-game win streak, defeating Big 8 foes Nevada, 52-49, Lamar, 55-45, and Monett, 47-41.

“We are playing our best basketball, and that’s what we want,” Reynolds said. “We’ve won three in a row and seven of our last 10, and we beat Nevada, on the road even, for the first time in about a decade.”

The Wildcats have turned the season around starting in January, going 4-10 in 2023 and posting a 7-6 record, with two fifth-place tournament finishes, in 2024.

“Our post play has been good all year,” Reynolds said. “Jon Dunbar and Eli Stokes are both big, but they are also skilled and good athletes. Eli is our leading scorer at 13 points per game, and he’s had a couple games over that. Jon is a couple points behind, but in conference play, he is just under 20 points per game and scored 25 against McDonald County and 23 against East Newton.”

Cassville’s size has been a point of conversation this season, as Dunbar and Stokes are each 6-8, and Ethan Bohmke checks in at 6-4. In total, the Wildcats have seven players at 6 feet or taller.

Reynolds said the change in outlook has come with improvement around the arc.

“Our guard play was a weakness at the start of the season, but we’ve settled in,” he said. “Consistency in the post and improving at guard has been the combination for us playing our best basketball now. Our guards playing better has opened some things up, and teams can’t always just pack it in and not let us throw the ball into the post, though some still do.

“We are playing up to our capabilities, and you can’t coach height, but we have good athletes that are hard to stop.”

Cassville finished 3-3 in conference play, and looking at the district tournament, the Wildcats could earn any number of seeds.

“This is one of the weirdest years I have seen for districts, because Seneca is the clear cut No. 1, as they have the best record and been the most consistent, but the rest of us have been up and down,” Reynolds said. “If anything gives us an edge for a higher seed, it’s that we’ve been mostly up lately. We had a rough stretch in the middle of the season, but we’ve played much better in our last 10.

“There are six teams in the district, and we are not the No. 1 seed, but we’re not the No. 6 seed. Seeding will just depend on what the voting coaches value with records and players’ skills.”

Record-wise, Seneca sits at 15-7. Aurora is 12-11, Cassville is 11-12, Mt. Vernon is 11-11 and East Newton is 10-13. The only team without double-digit wins is Monett, at 7-17.

“I don’t know if [the parity] benefits anyone, but it will make for an exciting tournament,” Reynolds said. “If we end up the 4 or 5, it’s encouraging to know we can beat the 1 or 2 and it not really be an upset. On the other end of that, the higher seeds won’t have anything easy. It makes for a good, competitive tournament.

The district tournament begins on Feb. 27 in Mt. Vernon. Cassville hosted Aurora on Tuesday, with the result not available at presstime. The Wildcats travel to Hollister on Friday and end the regular season at home against Buffalo on Feb. 22 for senior night.