Five things to watch at American Family Insurance Holiday Classic
The Kansas City Star
(Wednesday-Dec.29 at William Jewell College)
1. A tantalizing possibility
The Nelson Division of the American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic is set up to showcase one of the areas biggest early season showdowns Dec. 29 ... if everything goes to plan, of course. Blue Springs South, unbeaten this year, is the top seed in the division, and No. 2 Lees Summit West sits on the bottom half of the bracket. Blue Springs South starts a four-guard rotation offset by talented big man Kevin Puryear, a sophomore who has already garnered Division I interest. The Jaguars have the look of an early favorite to play deep into the Class 5 playoffs. There, they may eventually meet Lees Summit West, which advanced to the state tournament a year ago behind Shaquille Harrison. The Titans could make a return trip behind his brother, Monte Harrison. If the two play for the title which is no guarantee with Fort Osage and Grandview also in the bracket expect a game filled with athleticism and a few highlight reel dunks along the way.
2. Park Hill South hopes for payback
Count on Park Hill South playing like a motivated team when it opens against Raymore-Peculiar at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Panthers, seeded second in the Cardinal Division, have their sights on top-seeded Liberty North in what would be a rematch of the title game in the inaugural Liberty North Invitational. In that game, Liberty North trailed for the first three quarters, but senior Jake Hanson heated up in the fourth quarter to kick start a comeback that led to a 10-point win. Liberty North, 5-3, has won five of six, while Park Hill South hasnt lost since that night two weeks ago. The Panthers have plenty of size, but the team is paced by guard Anthony Woods.
3. Contender or pretender?
For some, the annual American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic provides a chance for teams to prove their hot starts to the 2012-13 season are no fluke. A year after winning only 10 games, St. Pius X has won five of the first six games on its schedule. The Warriors have notched key victories against Pleasant Hill and Kearney, but winning a couple of games in the Patterson Division the Warriors open with Harrisonville at 6 p.m. Wednesday would go a long way toward giving their bounce-back year some real substance. The same can be said for Liberty, which is 7-1 after finishing 14-13 last year. Also in the Patterson Division, the Blue Jays open with Raytown at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Despite its 2-6 start, Raytown offers some matchup problems with 6-foot-6 Jailen Gill occupying the middle. Gill is averaging 10 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
4. Ringing in the New Year
For others, the holiday tournament at William Jewell is a chance gain some much-needed momentum before the new year. Grandview has had a fine start to the season at 4-3, but with point guard Tyrone Taylor and post player Freedom Akinmoladun leading the way, the Bulldogs have the talent for a breakout year. They hope to get center Wesley Nosakhare back in time for the tournament after he missed the previous three games with an oblique injury. Hogan Prep, 5-2, is also looking to kick things up a notch following an lackluster showing in the Hy-Vee Shootout. Amaad Wainwright, Antoine Stanley and Anthony Ridley are looking for solid footing after a 27-point loss to Bishop Miege.
5. The battles continue
The always-competitive Holiday Basketball Classic represents more of the same for Rockhurst. The Hawklets opened a brutal schedule with wins against Liberty North, Jefferson City and Blue Springs in an impressive three-game winning streak, but they will walk into William Jewell having lost back-to-back games to Blue Springs South and Blue Valley North. To get back on track, Rockhurst will have to regain its shooting touch after a 5-for-22 outing from three-point land in the Hy-Vee Shootout. They are the top seed in the Patterson Division, a wide-open bracket that also features Liberty, St. Pius X and Truman as its seeded teams.
| Sam McDowell, firstname.lastname@example.org