The Area Rush basketball team surmounted a familiar obstacle earlier in the month, winning the ninth-grade division of the Show-Me Games basketball tournament at Columbia College on June 9.
The Rush defeated the Kansas City Greyhounds for the Show-Me title, 50-49, after losing to the same team by two points earlier in the tournament. Rush, made up entirely of Class 1 incoming sophomores aside from a pair of Chillicothe athletes, defeated Helias' freshman by four and Four Rivers, near St. Louis, by 11.
The Greyhounds defeated Rush for the eighth grade title last summer.
The team, which includes Meadville's Conner Fletcher, is comprised of two Chillicothe kids, two Hale kids, three kids from Southwest (Ludlow), and Hunter Stockwell of Northwestern.
Rush is coached by Bud Neptune and Nick Meyers.
Neptune, a Dawn resident, has coached for roughly 40 years and assembled the team last year to give small-school athletes a chance to compete at a high level during the offseason. Neptune's son Joe sponsors the team through Chillicothe's Neptune Insurance Group, which he said alleviates what would otherwise be a significant financial obstacle for athletes and families.
"We had a great time down there," the elder Neptune said. "In a few years, we hope to get a chance for a few of these boys to play in the Class 1 state tournament. They work together and get along, and I'm real proud of them. They're good, aggressive players and they'll press you on defense."
The Show-Me Games was Rush's fourth and final tournament of the spring and summer. It won a tournament in Boonville earlier in the spring.
Neptune said that Meadville's Fletcher, a new addition to the team this season, was an integral part of Rush's success.
"He's a big kid, and a strong kid," Neptune said. "He's got good fundamentals, and he can handle the ball well for a big kid. He's a good athlete with a good shot.
"I think we'll try to keep the team together moving forward. We'll play some senior high teams in the coming years. It's pretty exciting for all the boys and me."