If you're trying to piece together how the Eldon Mustangs have made it to the district title game, a good place to start is the improved play of Ryan Kliethermes. The now-fully healthy junior forward scored a team-high 17 points as Eldon rallied to beat Boonville 53-49 in the district semifinals on Wednesday night. The Mustangs have a winning record since mid-January and Kliethermes has been a big reason why, Eldon coach Jim Lincoln said.


If you're trying to piece together how the Eldon Mustangs have made it to the district title game, a good place to start is the improved play of Ryan Kliethermes.

The now-fully healthy junior forward scored a team-high 17 points as Eldon rallied to beat Boonville 53-49 in the district semifinals on Wednesday night.

The Mustangs have a winning record since mid-January and Kliethermes has been a big reason why, Eldon coach Jim Lincoln said.

"Ryan does a lot for us," Lincoln said. "He posts up, shoots the ball pretty well and does a lot of things. He's playing real well about the last three weeks."

Kliethermes missed the end of football season last fall due to a non-sports related injury he suffered to his knee.

Trying to recover from the cut patellar tendon, Lincoln said Kliethermes was limited at the start of basketball season as well.

"He wasn't fully healthy until mid-January," Lincoln said. "When we first brought him back, the doctors said play him.

"He ran up and down the court with a massive limp. I went to his mom and dad and said, 'Are you sure he can't hurt it anymore?'"

A return visit saw the doctor confirm that playing was the best medicine for Kliethermes' knee. The road to recovery wasn't easy.

Lincoln said Kliethermes made one 3-pointer before Jan. 15 — off a deflection against Waynesville.

"He had no strength and no lift in his legs," Lincoln said. "He's added something to us now."

A Kliethermes' 3-pointer versus Boonville gave Eldon a 45-43 lead it would not relinquish.

Several times against the Pirates, Kliethermes was the tallest Mustang on the court.

Lincoln said playing Kliethermes at center can give other teams matchup problems.

"If they ever go man, Ryan or Sammy (Lincoln) gets the post player and we'll spread them out on the court," Lincoln said.

Eldon faces a Helias team tonight that's ranked No. 10 in Class 4. Lincoln couldn't say enough good things about the Crusaders.

"Helias is a much better team, Helias is the No. 1 seed for a reason," Lincoln said. "They're more talented and it's the championship game... but you know, maybe they'll leave a few of their kids at home and make it closer. I can pick three of them I just want to stay at home but I don't know if (Helias head coach) Josh (Buffington) will do that."

The Crusaders feature 6'4" senior sharpshooter Zach Rockers. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

"We've got to the (championship) game and we'll see what happens," Lincoln said. "When you're trying to build something back that was up pretty good at one time, you just want to get to this game and kind of roll the dice and see what happens."