The road to the Missouri Class 5 and Class 4 state tournaments continues today with last weekend’s district champions slated to meet in sectional-round gamestoday. Missouri Class 5 games will be played at the Independence Events Center starting at 3 p.m., while Class 4 games will be split between Staley High School and Blue Springs South.
1. A battle of powerhouses, Part IV
The need for scouting went out the window when Blue Springs South and Rockhurst learned they will meet in the Class 5 sectional game at 3 p.m. today at the Independence Events Center. The two teams — both ranked in the top six in The Star's big class poll — are playing for the fourth time this season, with South winning two of the first three. A game that will likely be decided by only a couple of key plays has plenty of players ready to make them. South is headlined by talented guards Justin Pitts and Carl Martin, who have an uncanny ability to turn steals into layups. They are accompanied in the lineup by sophomore big man Kevin Puryear, who is already getting Division I looks. Rockhurst possesses a deep bench, though its offensive success relies on the shoulders of 6-5 post player Kyle Wolf, whose mid-range shooting helps extend defenses away from the basket.
2. Up for the challenge
North Kansas City and Kearney coaches have spent the past few days describing their teams as having similar refuse-to-lose attitudes. They will play a Class 5 sectional game tonight at 8:15 at the Independence Events Center. There is evidence to back up both coaches' statements. Kearney, 24-2, brings a 23-game winning streak into the game. The Bulldogs may lack a star player, but their team defense makes them an tough out in the playoffs. North Kansas City, 24-3, meanwhile has won 14 straight games. Lexus Bradley, Aries Washington and Selena Salas have each averaged double figures during the winning streak.
3. A date with No. 1
A year after reaching the Class 4 state tournament, the Liberty North boys team didn't exactly catch any breaks with its draw in the state bracket. The Eagles, 20-5, will take on the state's top-ranked team in Class 4, St. Joseph Lafayette, at 6 p.m. at Staley High School. Of course, it's not as if Lafayette, 24-3, has proven unbeatable this season. In fact, it has lost to a pair of area teams — Kearney and Hogan Prep. That offers reason for hope tonight, and so does Liberty North junior post player Brinkley Jolly, who offsets sharpshooting Jake Hanson in the Eagles' offense.
4. Defense wins championships ... right?
Their games aren't always exciting to watch, but the Smithville Warriors prefer it that way. In 2012, Smithville rode its defense to the Class 4 girls state championship game, where it lost by two points to Republic. A year later, the Warriors have returned to form. They have allowed fewer than 40 points in 12 of their past 13 games — all victories. And while the team's offense may not be flashy, it has the weapons to impress with post player Paige Imhoff and guard Maddie Nelson leading the way.
5. Upsets happen
Pleasant Hill is slated to face Grandview at 6 p.m. tonight at Blue Springs South. Grandview has won six in a row — culminating in an upset of Center in a district championship game — after stumbling to an 8-12 start. Similarly, Fort Osage will see St. Joseph Central at 6:30 tonight at the Independence Events Center in an unexpected matchup between two teams that were No. 2 seeds in their respective district tournaments. The Indians, 21-4, are led senior D'Vante Mosby, who averages a double-double, but it was guard Will Penamon's basket with seven seconds remaining against Liberty that landed Fort Osage in today's sectional round.