A look at defending boys' champion Waynesville.

Based on the recent past, it will be an upset if the Waynesville High School boys’ basketball team does not advance to the championship game of the US Bank/Rolla High School Holiday Invitational next week.

Because the Tigers have been a constant in the tourney’s final game.

Waynesville has captured the US Bank/RHS Invitational championship the past four years, including last season’s 67-54 title game victory over host Rolla.

Overall the Tigers have been in the tourney finals seven of the previous eight years, winning the championship five times.

The 28th annual US Bank/RHS Holiday Invitational Tournament will be held Dec. 29-31 at the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building at Missouri S&T as well as the RHS main gym.

In first-round games at the Bullman Building on Monday, Dec. 29, Hickman faces Salem at 2 p.m., Rogers Heritage, Ark. meets Francis Howell Central at 3:30 p.m., Waynesville takes on Warrensburg at 5 p.m. and Rolla plays Festus at 6:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, Dec. 30 at the Bullman Building, the Hickman-Salem loser plays the Rolla-Festus loser at 2 p.m. and the Waynesville-Warrensburg loser plays the Heritage-Howell Central loser at 3:30 p.m. in consolation play while the Hickman-Salem winner meets the Rolla-Festus winner at 5 p.m. and the Waynesville-Warrensburg winner takes on the Heritage-Howell Central winner at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals.

On Wednesday, Dec. 31 the seventh-place game is slated for 10:30 a.m. at the Bullman Building and at the RHS gym the fifth-place game is set for 10:30 a.m., the third-place game for 1:30 p.m. and the championship game for 4:30 p.m.

“We always enjoy playing in it,” said Chris Pilz, in his fourth season as Tiger head coach and who has never not won the Rolla tournament while sitting on the Waynesville bench. “And this year the field is very good.

“Rolla is really a good basketball team this year. I’ve seen them play and I don’t think they’re a surprise. Hickman has got Jimmy Whitt who is Arkansas-bound. Francis Howell Central has won a tournament. We saw Heritage earlier and they’re good. And Festus has one of the best players in the tournament.”

This season Waynesville is hoping to make a deep run in the Missouri Class 5 State Tournament behind their NCAA Division I signee Juwan Morgan, a 6-8 senior forward who inked early with Indiana.

The Tigers, ranked No. 6 in last week’s Missouri Class 5 state poll, are 6-1 coming to Rolla. WHS dropped its first game of the season on Saturday, falling to Hazelwood Central (ranked No. 8 in Class 5 state poll) 60-52 during the Waynesville Route 66 Shootout.

Two weeks ago Waynesville won the Arvest Tournament in Rogers, Ark.

“I think we’re about where I thought we’d be,” Pilz said. “If we had played a little better against Hazelwood Central we could be undefeated.

“I think this group has a chance to really be good.”

Morgan leads the way for the Tigers, averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 blocks and 4.5 assists.

Also for Waynesville 5-9 long-range shooting junior guard Joe Johnson averages 15 points and 3.5 assists and 6-5 junior forward Cedric Williams eight points and eight rebounds.

Others in the Tiger rotation include 5-8 junior guard Reggie Walker, 5-9 senior guard Rashad Swanson, 6-4 senior forward Jon Moore, 6-2 junior Caleb Rodriguez and 6-0 senior guard Austin Bogle, the latter a transfer from Crocker.