The names change.

But the winning beat goes on for the Waynesville High School boys’ basketball team.


The names change.
But the winning beat goes on for the Waynesville High School boys’ basketball team.
And next week the Tigers, who have lost just once so far this campaign, will be attempting to advance to the championship game of the US Bank/Rolla High School Holiday Invitational for the third consecutive year.
The 23rd annual US Bank/Rolla High School Holiday Invitational is scheduled for Dec. 29-31 at the Rolla High School gym.
Teams in this year’s field include Waynesville; Westbury Christian, a private school from Houston, Texas; Rogers, Ark.; Festus; Washington; St. Joseph Benton; Salem, and host Rolla.
In first-round games on Monday, Dec. 29 Salem plays Festus at 4 p.m., Waynesville takes on Benton at 5:30 p.m., Rolla faces Westbury Christian at 7 p.m. and Washington meets Rogers at 8:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Dec. 30, the Salem-Festus loser plays the Waynesville-Benton loser at 4 p.m. while the Rolla-Westbury loser plays the Washington-Rogers loser at 5:30 p.m. in the losers bracket. In semifinal games on Dec. 30 the Salem-Festus winner takes on the Waynesville-Benton winner at 7 p.m. while the Rolla-Westbury winner plays the Washington-Rogers winner at 8:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, Dec. 31 the seventh-place game is slated for noon, the fifth-place game is set for 1:30 p.m., the third-place game is slated for 3 p.m. and the championship game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Rogers is the tournament’s defending champion, clipping Waynesville in double-overtime in the 2007 title game.
The previous year Waynesville knocked off Rogers 54-48 in the finals.
And it appears Waynesville, despite huge graduation losses, may be a major factor in the tourney once again.
The Tigers are 5-1 so far this season, their lone loss coming to state-ranked Columbia Rock Bridge. And Waynesville has been dominating in many of its wins so far.
The Tigers are coming off back-to-back district tournament championships. In 2007-08 Waynesville finished 22-7 -- including a third-place finish in the prestigious Springfield Bass Pro Tournament of Champions -- and advanced to the Missouri Class 5 Quarterfinals.
However, all but two lettermen from that squad were lost to graduation, including all-stater Dominique Long and three-year starters Chris Rebuck and L.J. Fort.
Tom Bildner, entering his eighth season as Waynesville head coach, has his Tigers again playing at a high level nonetheless.
“We have a lot of kids without a lot of very experience,” Bildner said. “We’ve had a lot of on-the-job training. We’ve kind of thrown them out there, seeing how the varsity game is played.”
The key player back is three-year starter B.J. Ray, a 6-3 senior guard who has been a NCAA Division I recruit in both basketball and football.
The other varsity letterman back is 5-8 senior guard Keith Dupont. In addition Waynesville has been helped by a pair of transfer students, 6-4 point guard Kelsey Bardell and 6-4 junior forward Brandon Preston.
Bildner has not had a set starting lineup the entire season. Other key players for the Tigers are 6-3 senior Donald Perry, 6-1 junior Kendall Lewis, 6-1 senior Corey Johnson, 6-0 senior Zane Howser and 6-2 junior Kevin Vereen.
Ray, Perry and Lewis are all averaging around 10 points a game while Vereen averages seven rebounds. Preston has been a defensive factor inside, blocking seven shots in a single game.
Without a dominating offensive force, Bildner says his athletic squad must win with defense.
“Our biggest asset is probably defensive pressure,” he said. “We’ve allowed 40, 45 and 38 points or last three games. We’ve used a lot of defensive pressure so far.”
It’s the ninth year that the Tigers will be a part of the Rolla Holiday Tournament.
“It’s a nice tournament and it’s only 30 minutes away, which is great,” Bildner said. “It gives you a chance to maybe play teams from Arkansas and, this year, Texas. But we take it one game at a time. We open with Benton and we’ll worry only about Benton first.”