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      Time to Dance

      Maybe there's something in the bratwurst.

      Maybe it's in the potato salad.

      Maybe it's the workout they get from dancing the polka.

      Whatever the case, they produce a lot of quality athletes in Hermann, this quaint German town of 2,400 on the banks of the Missouri River, a town that looks like it fell off a postcard or a Norman Rockwell painting.

      Great stuff, great teams.

      On the heels of the school's 12th state volleyball championship last fall, the Hermann Lady Bearcats have punched their basketball ticket to the Class 3 Final Four in Columbia.

      "We've been really fortunate, because we've had some tremendous girls go through our program," Hermann coach Todd Anderson said. "Not just good athletes, but good people.

      "Humble kids, the kind you hope for when you get into coaching."

      Good people and winning teams certainly make coaching more enjoyable.

      "This is a great group of kids, they're fun to be around," Anderson said. "We have six seniors who have been a part of the varsity basketball team for four years now, and we've mixed in some underclassmen with them.

      "They complement each other really well ... each one has their own strength, and we're much better as a whole than we are as individuals."

      Two individuals have made this drive to Columbia possible, however.

      Jamie Gleeson, a 5-11 senior, is averaging 16.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.3 steals; 5-6 senior Karinne Lane is averaging 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.3 steals.

      Combined, those averages are 31.5 points, 15.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 6.6 steals.

      Those averages are anything but.

      "They're both four-year starters and special players," Anderson said. "They're our leaders and have been so for a while."

      Both Gleeson and Lane have scored more than 1,000 points in their careers and both were all-state players last year.

      "They make us go," Anderson said.

      This is the fifth trip to the Final Four for the Lady Bearcats, who already have a matching set of trophies --- first (1987), second (2011), third (2008), fourth (2003).

      The next stop in this quest for second-ranked Hermann (27-1) is a date with sixth-ranked Ash Grove (27-4) at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena.

      "Like us, they're another senior-heavy group, so they have a lot of experience," Anderson said. "I think the teams match up pretty well.

      "They're definitely a quality team and we're going to have to play well to beat them."

      Anderson, a graduate of Festus High School south of St. Louis, is in his 16th year at Hermann, the last 15 as head coach. His wife is also a teacher, and both work in the Hermann school district.

      "We thought we'd be here a year or two," Anderson said, "and here we are, 16 years later. We love the community, we've made a lot of good friends, and we decided that this was the place to raise our kids.

      "It's become home for us."

      Rest assured, the hometown fans have been backing this team.

      "We've had great support, especially the last couple of games, and it does make a difference when you have a large crowd there for you," Anderson said.

      "Winning is fun, it's special."

      This team will take a winning edge to Columbia, as most of these players also played volleyball.

      "I know it can't hurt, just the experience of playing in big games," Anderson said. "The added pressure, most of them have been through that and they've had success.

      "A lot of times, success will lead to more success. This time of year, you're trying to get any slight advantage you can and maybe that's one for us."

      Hermann, which has won seven straight district titles, lost in the first round of the playoffs the previous two seasons.

      "We fell a little short the last couple of years, and that left somewhat of a bitter taste in my mouth and theirs, as well, Anderson said. "They set a goal before the season that they wanted to get back to Columbia and they've worked methodically to do that.

      "It's one thing to set a goal, it's another thing to follow through day after day after day and make it happen. They've stayed with it, improving every day, every week. "

      Anderson continued.

      "I think the process is much more important than the end result. But if you do the little things right along the way, then your end result is going to be what you wanted.

      "I'm glad it's paying off for them."

      Indeed it is. With a win Thursday, Hermann would play for the state championship at 2:40 p.m. Saturday. At around 4:15 p.m. Saturday, well ...

      It could be time to dance.