The Missouri Class 5 basketball district tournaments tipped off on Monday, though the date of their conclusions is much less certain. Winter weather is taking a toll on the schedules. Days and times are in stay tuned mode. But here’s a breakdown of each boys and girls district tournament and some analysis to ponder.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Class 5, District 13 boys, Lee’s Summit West High School
Semifinal matchups: Ruskin vs. Rockhurst; Lee’s Summit West vs. Raymore-Peculiar
Championship prediction: Lee’s Summit West over Rockhurst. In the potential can’t-miss game of the district tournaments this week, a pair of powerhouses are favored to match up with an entrance into the state tournament on the line. The Hawklets handed LS West a 20-point loss three weeks ago, but LS West was playing without talented point guard Kyndall Powell, who is back for the district tournament. Both teams are athletic, but the Titans’ physical play may give them the edge. The key for LS West will be finding a way to limit the open looks for Rockhurst center Kyle Wolf.
Coach’s take: “Lee’s Summit West will be our toughest challenge,” Rockhurst coach Mark Nusbaum said. “But Ruskin is one of those teams that if you’re not ready for, they could reach up and grab you. ... Both teams are similar in that they have superb athletes.”
Class 5, District 13 girls, Lee’s Summit West High School
Semifinal matchups: Raymore-Peculiar vs. St. Teresa’s Academy; Lee’s Summit West vs. Ruskin
Championship prediction: St. Teresa’s Academy over Ruskin. The Stars earned the district top seed despite compiling only an 8-15 regular season mark, which reveals plenty about the tournament. One thing is for sure, though: With no dominate team to headline the event, it’s anybody’s to win. The Stars are a young team, but their two seniors — Maggie Jo Rellihan and Becca Lueke — carry the load offensively.
Coach’s take: “I think we are at a very good point (because) we are healthy for the first time in a while,” St. Teresa’s coach Chance Stephen said. “We play lots of freshmen and start three of them, but now they have a year under their belt and should be ready to go. I am looking forward to making a run.”
Class 5, District 14 boys, Blue Springs High School
Semifinal matchups: Lee’s Summit vs. Blue Springs South; Blue Springs vs. Lee’s Summit North
Championship prediction: Blue Springs South over Lee’s Summit North. A season finale between the Jaguars and Broncos was snowed out Friday night, but the two should meet up in the district title game. Blue Springs South has been one of the area’s most consistent teams this season. The Jaguars’ speed in the open floor — most notably from guards Justin Pitts and Carl Martin — flips turnovers into nearly automatic fast-break points on the other end. Lee’s Summit North, while fundamentally sound, may not have the athleticism to keep up.
Coach’s take: “For us to have a chance to advance, we will need to play really well,” South coach Jimmy Cain said. “Many of our kids have competed in some big postseason games in the past, which is nice, but we also know that every team in in our district can beat one another on any give night.”
Class 5, District 14 girls, Blue Springs High School
Semifinal matchups: Blue Springs vs. Lee’s Summit; Blue Springs South vs. Lee’s Summit North
Championship prediction: Blue Springs over Lee’s Summit North. No team should feel more comfortable this time of year than the Blue Springs Wildcats, who have advanced to the Class 5 championship game four straight seasons. There’s a legitimate chance Blue Springs can make it five straight — though the road certainly appears tougher this time around. Still, the scoring threats of Lizzy Wendell and Karyla Middlebrook give Blue Springs a chance against just about anybody. The Wildcats have won 17 straight games entering the tournament.
Coach’s take: “Our goal is to get back to state a fifth straight year, but we have a number of road blocks standing in our way,” Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli said. “I know our four seniors have been in a lot of big games the last three years, and hopefully they will make sure we do not get complacent.”
Class 5, District 15 boys, Liberty High School
Semifinal matchups: William Chrisman vs. Fort Osage; Winnetonka vs. Liberty
Championship prediction: Fort Osage over Liberty. Arguably the most wide open district in Kansas City, the tournament features six teams with a winning record. Top-seeded Liberty has the most talented scorer in the district with junior Kellan Turner, a guard that can create his own shot and score from anywhere on the floor. But Fort Osage’s trio of big men — Austin Regier, D’Vante Mosby and Zach Adams — is the reason the second-seeded Indians are the team to beat here. They’ve won 10 straight.
Coach’s take: “I feel good about our team — we’re healthy and playing some of our best basketball right now,” Liberty coach Roger Stirtz said. “Our team has a good outlook about the postseason, but every team is feeling positive now.”
Class 5, District 15 girls, Liberty High School
Semifinal matchups: Liberty vs. Truman; William Chrisman vs. Kearney
Championship prediction: Truman over Kearney. Two of the state’s soaring teams should meet in a highly-anticipated district championship game. Kearney has won 21 straight games with a well-balanced scoring rotation led by Taylor Doan, Meagan Paul, Mackenzie Cook and Cassidy Lee. Of course, that’s small potatoes compared to Truman’s undefeated mark entering the district tournament. The Patriots are a team that can beat opponents inside with Becca Jonas and Ashley Guenther or from the perimeter with Abby Hix.
Coach’s take: “As a team, we are playing our best basketball of the entire season,” Kearney coach Troy Resler said. “... In order for us to advance, we will have to continue to play unselfishly on offense. Our team defense has been our biggest strength, and that will have to continue to be the case.”
Class 5, District 16 boys, Park Hill South High School
Semifinal matchups: Park Hill South vs. North Kansas City-Park Hill; St. Joseph Central vs. Oak Park-Staley winner
Championship prediction: Park Hill South over St. Joseph Central. To be blunt, this grouping isn’t exactly full of powerhouses. Only Park Hill South took a winning record into the tournament, and there’s no reason the Panthers shouldn’t advance on their home floor. Park Hill South has size, plays tough defense and can run the floor with Austin Woods leading the way at point guard. Hudson Welty leads the Panthers in scoring at 13.7 points per game.
Coach’s take: “We have won five games in a row, so we’re playing with confidence,” Park Hill South coach Richard Zych said.
Class 5, District 16 girls, Park Hill South High School
Semifinal matchups: North Kansas City vs. St. Joseph Central; Park Hill South vs. Staley
Championship prediction: North Kansas City over Park Hill South. It’s the Panthers who grabbed the No. 1 seed on their home court, but North Kansas City is playing its most consistent basketball of the season behind talented point guard Lexus Bradley and a reliable supporting cast that includes freshman Selena Salas and junior Aries Washington. All three players have averaged double figures in scoring during a 12-game winning streak, giving the Hornets much-needed depth should they face a Park Hill South team that implements a stingy full-court press for all 32 minutes.
Coach’s take: “Our key will be being able to hit shots from the outside and rebound well,” North Kansas City coach Jeff Lacy said. “We are an undersized team that relies on pressure defensively and attacking offensively. ... If we can stretch some defenses out and make our shots, we can give ourselves a chance.”