He’s not starting as a true freshman, but Conner Crooker is making an impact at Northwest Missouri State University.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Last Thursday, Crooker, a 2012 Blue Valley North graduate, sank Northeastern (Okla.) State with an old-fashioned three-point play in the closing seconds of an MIAA battle.
The Bearcats trail Central Missouri by one game in the race for the MIAA men’s basketball championship, and Crooker’s presence in Maryville helps explain his alma mater’s 7-7 record entering Tuesday night’s games as well as any other reason.
BV North finished third in the Kansas 6A state tournament last season and was expected to be a contender once again for the state title.
After absorbing a three-point loss to Olathe East in the season opener, the Mustangs won five in a row — defeating Rockhurst at the buzzer in the Hy-Vee Shootout and picking off three solid East Kansas League rivals as well.
Everything, however, has changed in the last month.
There were no significant injuries, but losses suddenly started piling up.
Senior Scott Edwards, who leads BV North in scoring, continued to produce points – and opponents seemed content to let him do so.
But without Crooker, there wasn’t a second option readily available in the offense, and the Mustangs went into a spiral, losing six of seven games.
Some losses were understandable. Rival BV Northwest and Missouri power Blue Springs South are top-notch teams, so somebody had to lose those games.
But others – against good-not-great Gardner Edgerton and Shawnee Mission West – were much more of head scratchers. BV North even slipped below .500 with a loss last week to Bishop Miege.
The slide finally ended last Friday with a 53-49 victory over Blue Valley.
In that game, Edwards and Jawan Emery each scored 15 points, giving the Mustangs a scoring balance all too often unseen so far this season.
Ultimately, though, for BV North to regain its swagger and reclaim a spot among the top Kansas 6A teams, that trend will have to continue.
BVNW cracks national top 25
According to the CBSSports.com MaxPreps Top 25 rankings, the Blue Valley Northwest boys team is the 22nd-best team in the nation.
The Huskies, who own a four-game lead in the loss column in the race for a third consecutive East Kansas League championship, cracked the poll for the first time Sunday.
Voters were swayed by BV Northwest’s wins over De La Salle (Minn.), which was the 500th victory in coach Ed Fritz’s career, as well as victories against strong teams from Missouri (Nixa) and Iowa (Valley in West Des Moines). De La Salle is 16-1 overall, Nixa is 16-4 and Valley is 15-3.
The Huskies, who were 14-0 entering Tuesday night, have yet to receive the same regard in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings.
Aquinas numbers game
The St. Thomas Aquinas girls’ squad has scored 38 points or fewer in two of the last three games, but it’s not an overly troubling trend.
The Saints hung fewer points on the scoreboard only once during the season’s first six games, but they have scored more than 47 points only twice in nine games since.
On the surface, that points to offensive struggles that need to be addressed.
Aquinas doesn’t have a lights-out scorer, instead relying on a committee that most nights includes Tia Weledji, Allie Dierks and Haleigh Cindrich.
Still, it’s not a huge issue, because the Saints’ defense is tremendous. Only Olathe Northwest and Blue Springs have scored more than 40 points against coach Rick Hetzel’s girls.
Aquinas has limited an opponent to 28 points or fewer seven times, including Monday’s 37-28 cooling of a red-hot Bishop Miege team.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.