High school basketball season is upon us.
This page is the Tribune's headquarters for preview coverage, including a whip-around look at Columbia teams. Follow along with our coverage throughout the season.
The following is a glimpse at Columbia squads, with links to more in-depth stories:
Tolton forward Jevon Porter gets straight to the point.
The Trailblazers are aiming for a state championship this year, and the team is aware of where it stands.
"This year, the only people that are going to beat us are ourselves," Porter said of the Trailblazers, who went 14-8 last year. "We've got the team, we've got the talent."
Porter is joined by Justin Boyer, Tahki Chievous, James Lee and Tre McCluney to make up the senior class, and they're all on the same page.
"We're definitely state-bound," Boyer said. "We can definitely win state this year."
Rock Bridge ended last season with a loss to Washington in the Class 6 District 8 championship game, leaving the Bruins wanting more.
For a program with 23 district trophies, eight Final Four appearances and one state title, expectations are perennially high.
“We're OK. They're great kids. I wouldn't trade them for anybody else,” coach Jim Scanlon said after a recent scrimmage. “We've just got to keep working. ... The effort's there. They want to be good. We just gotta keep practicing and work on the little things.”
After finishing 14-8 last season, Rock Bridge is returning a good balance of upperclassmen and size to its lineup, but the loss of all-state point guard Xavier Sykes will bring an extra challenge.
Battle coach Ben Pallardy makes practice a personal game for the Spartans.
He has a whiteboard that charts out different teams. Each team scores as many points as possible. The players on the winning teams are the players who earn regular-season playing time.
That's how Pallardy is starting his first season in charge.
"Setting the culture is going to be a little bit different," he said, adding he looks to build upon the previous regime and the Spartans' 14-8 record last season.
Henry Wilson knows Hickman has its work cut out for itself.
The Kewpies graduated nine seniors last year after finishing with a 10-12 record, leaving Wilson, a senior this year, on a quest to see which other teammates can join him to make up a starting five.
"Literally everyone here is new besides me," Wilson said. "We've got a lot of youth, but a bunch of super talented guys that work really hard."
The season could present an upward trajectory.
As a perennial Final Four contender and five-time state champion, Rock Bridge is always a good bet to be among the last teams standing.
But coach Jill Nagel won't let her Bruins get ahead of themselves.
“Our goal is to win districts, and then set new goals,” Nagel said. “That sounds cliche. But if we do not take it one game at a time, it's going to bite you at some point.”
Last year, Rock Bridge was 21-5 and the Class 6 District 8 champion but lost to the eventual Class 6 state champion Incarnate Word Academy in the state quarterfinals. This season, Bruins are primed to get right back.
Stepping into his first year at the helm at Battle, Dustyn Yung wasn't going to waste time.
His first week of practice, he was constantly telling his players to bring more energy. Yung wanted to see them active.
There's a reason for that, too.
"They already know that I'm bringing a ton of energy," Yung said of the Spartans, who went 10-13 last year. "It starts with the head coach, then it trickles down to everybody else."
At dawn before the bustle of the day, Hickman is already hard at work.
Nicknamed “Coach Mo,” former Missouri women's basketball star and current Hickman head coach Morgan Scott is gearing up for her second season in charge.
Hickman’s coaches and players enter the season with an emphasis on relationships.
“We're not just a team, we're a family on and off the court. We can battle it out on the court all we want, beat each other up. But the second we step off, we can pick each other up," senior Megan Upham said.
Sam Sexauer is in a peculiar spot at Tolton. He's been the new head coach for the Trailblazers for just a few weeks after Elizabeth Best resigned in October.
It might be peculiar for Sexauer, but it's not for Trailblazers girls basketball.
"Unfortunately, coaching changes aren't that abnormal to them," Sexauer said. "I will be their fourth coach in four years."
That aside, the philosophy for the new head coach has been simple: have some fun.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Previewing Boone County high school basketball teams ahead of 2021-22