Have you caught your breath yet, high-school basketball fans?
What a wild, wacky and, most importantly, fun week it's been for district basketball. Almost on par with the food at the Blair Oaks hospitality room.
Six area teams emerged as district champions after surviving their respective gauntlets. The Eugene Eagles, Fatima Comets, Fatima Lady Comets, Linn Wildcats, New Bloomfield Lady Wildcats and St. Elizabeth Lady Hornets all brought home hardware as title winners.
A heartfelt congratulations is on order for those successful half-dozen. That's no easy task. It's a great accomplishment regardless of the situation.
The Fatima Lady Comets knocked off the No. 1 team in the state in Class 3 - St. James - just to win their district championship.
The St. Elizabeth Lady Hornets survived a nailbiter with another state-ranked team in Tuscumbia.
The Fatima Comets could have been in rebuilding mode after losing a lot of key pieces from their Final Four team last season. Instead they became district champs.
The Eugene Eagles, the hunted all season long and while climbing to the top of the Class 3 rankings during district tournament time, managed to escape every team's best effort.
Linn came out of a take-your-pick district, while third-seeded New Bloomfield pulled off an upset or two to advance to the state bracket.
The road only gets tougher from here. A few of the six will make deep runs, a few might lose their sectional game (not like there's any shame in that, though).
New Bloomfield gets a one-loss New Franklin team; Linn plays Father Tolton and one of the best freshman in the nation in Michael Porter Jr.; St. Elizabeth gets the defending state champion Walnut Grove; the Fatima Comets play a two-loss Hartville team.
That's why I believe Eugene and the Fatima Lady Comets have the best shot at making Final Four runs, not that their upcoming games are walk-overs by any means.
Eugene is ranked first in the state, averages 79 points per game and has an arsenal of long-range shooters. The way they run and gun and shoot 3-pointers (with efficiency) makes me think of them as a high-school version of the Creighton Bluejays.
The Fatima Lady Comets are battle-tested. They played down-to-the-wire games with Class 5 No. 3 Eureka and other big teams in the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational in December, as well as against Class 3 No. 2 Hermann in January at Mizzou Arena. And after knocking off the state's top-ranked team, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them go deep.
Whether all six teams make a Final Four run or all six lose in the sectional round, what an amazing year it's been for high-school basketball in the area.