The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 26, 2012

Billings favored in Southwest meet

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— The Billings High School boys basketball team is the No. 1 seed for the annual Washburn Southwest Holiday Tournament.

Wildcat coach Kendall Tilley isn’t sure the No. 1 seed is a good thing.

Southwest, seeded fourth, knocked off No. 1 Billings 81-60 in the semifinals last season before beating second-seeded Wheaton 64-44 for the championship.

But Billings is a logical No. 1 this season. The defending MSHSAA Class 2 champion has opened 6-1 after amassing a 29-3 record in 2011-12. That team also won the Southwest Central League at 7-0.

“Things are going all right,” Tilley said Tuesday. “I feel good about our start.”

Fayetteville (Ark.) Haas Hall Academy challenges Billings at 4:30 p.m. today to open the Southwest event.

Rest of the first round is Wheaton vs. fourth-seeded Southwest at 6 p.m., East Newton vs. No. 2 Hollister at 7:30 and Cassville vs. third-seeded Pea Ridge (Ark.) at 9.

Game times are identical on Thursday and Friday as all places will be decided.

Scott County Central, four-time defending MSHSAA Class 1 champion, has handed Billings its only loss — 111-96 in overtime — on Dec. 15 in the inaugural Branson Ozark Mountain Shootout.

The Braves grabbed a rebound and scored to force overtime. The Braves piled up 25 points in the extra four minutes.

“I think we played seven players in that game,” Tilley said. “That’s the pace we like. We just ran out of gas. It got out of hand. We kept fouling. We couldn’t make a 3.”

The Wildcats return three senior starters. They are 6-foot-1 Brad Chastain, 6-0 Austin Essick and 6-0 Chad Yeokum.

Essick and Chastain, who missed the Scott County Central game because of the flu, earned all-state honors in 2011-12.

Dawson Meyer, a 6-0 junior, and 6-3 senior Lane Truman complete the usual starters.

Meyer is the scoring leader with about a 20-point average. Essick adds averages of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Meyer tallied 37, Essick 30 and Yeokum 23 against Scott County Central.

Tilley is in his sixth season as the Billings head coach (a pair of three-year stints). He’s a product of Ellington High School (1988), Three Rivers Community College and Missouri State.

First-teamer Chastain and Essick were all-tournament choices at Southwest last season. The Wildcats bounced back from the loss to Southwest to defeat Purdy 64-41 for third place.

Essick could be leaning toward baseball in college, Tilley said.