By Anvil Welch

Globe Sports Writer

Neosho's boys, seeking a fifth straight regular-season tournament championship, must start with young Francis Howell Central in the Freeman Sports Medicine-Joplin Sports Authority Kaminsky Classic.

Neosho twice has won its Christmas Holiday Tournament, the Kaminsky last season and the Carthage this season in building the streak. Joplin denied the Wildcats in 2001-02 at Carthage by claiming a 75-74 overtime decision.

Larry Anders' Class 5 Spartans have opened with just two wins in eight decisions.

"We're so young,'' Anders said. "We're playing a lot of sophomores. We're trying to find ourselves. It depends on which team shows up.

"These tourmant trips (the Spartans were at Rolla last weekend) help make a team. We're looking forward to the second half of the season.''

Said Neosho coach Denny Chenoweth: "Our scouting report says they can handle the defensive pressure. They like to penetrate, kick the ball out for the 3 or run a lot of motion.''

Anders said 6-foot-1 senior Travis Harris is the Spartans' point.

"It will be interesting to see how Travis handles the Neosho pressure. He's the typical coach on the floor. He also has a nice offensive game. I believe he's up for the challenge.''

Mike Parsons, sophomore left-hander who's the Spartans' shooting guard, is averaging 16 points.

Blake Belaief, a 6-5 sophomore, is averaging 11 points and six rebounds.

Parsons and Eric Priaulx, a 6-4 soph, saw brief time on the varsity last season, Anders said.

Anders, Missouri-St. Louis graduate in his sixth season at Francis Howell Central, has been its only varsity coach.

Chenoweth, laughing, said the superbly balanced Wildcats will start their usual five guards.

All-stater Tyler Chaney, who plays defense most of the time on the inside, is averaging 18.3 ponts and 6.3 rebounds. Trent Barratt is averaging 14.5 points, Jon Branscum 13.7, Michael Dauhgerty 11.1 and Evan Griffith 7.5.

Chaney also leads the team with 51 assists and shares the steals lead with Daugherty at 41.

Chenoweth currently shies from comparing this edition with the quarterfinalist of 2001-02.

"We graduated Michael Anders and Travis Wilfong, and they played so big for us late in the season,'' Chenoweth said. "Daugherty has been healthy all this season. Chaney and Barratt have continued getting their points. Griffith, who's continued to be an awfully good defensive player, has turned into a nice offensive player.

"Phil McClintock (a 6-4 sophomore) and Braden Ham (6-2 junior) are coming off solid performances in our tournament,'' Chenoweth said.

Barratt scored 20 and Chaney 19 as Neosho defeated Blue Springs 62-49 for the Kaminsky title last season.

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