Bishop Miege High School senior Montell Cozart is set to play perhaps his last competitive basketball game.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Arguably the best boys' player in Mill Valley High School history, senior Nathan Stacy, will represent the Jaguars one final time.
The same goes for perhaps the top girls' players in Mill Valley history, senior Stephanie Lichtenauer and Tanner Tripp, who were certainly the driving force behind the program’s best season in history. Lichtenauer and Tripp powered Mill Valley into the Kansas Class 5A girls' final in the school's first appearance at state.
After taking the SM East boys' basketball to new heights with a single-season record for wins and a fourth-place finish in Class 6A, seniors Zach Schneider and Vance Wentz will play alongside one another one final time.
It’s a similar story for Olathe Northwest’s talented girls trio – Arkansas-bound Kelsey Brooks, Wisconsin-bound Mikey Crall and South Dakota-bound Jaylah Jackson.
Even better, every one of these storylines and many more will dovetail together Friday night at the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association’s All-Star Challenge at SM South.
Each of the aforementioned players are among the top senior basketball players in metropolitan Kansas City and will represent Kansas in a border-war showdown against top seniors from Missouri. It tips off at 6 p.m. Friday with the girls' all-star battle followed by the boys' game. There also will be a slam dunk contest at halftime of the boys' game.
Tickets, which are available only at the door, are $5 for students and $7 for adults. Admission includes both games and parking is free. Concessions will be available.
Of course, before the All-Star games are played, the DiRenna Awards will be handed out during a 7:30 p.m. ceremony Thursday in the SM South auditorium.
Established in 1954, the DiRenna Award – which is named for the late Dr. James A. DiRenna, a noted Kansas City surgeon and teacher who died in 1996 – recognizes the top male high school basketball player in metropolitan Kansas City.
The girls' DiRenna Award was established in 1997.
Here’s how the DiRenna boys race shapes up:
1. Semi Ojeleye, Ottawa, senior. The hands-down favorite to win the award, Ojeleye finally won a coveted Kansas Class 4A state crown after three straight runner-up finishes, leading the Cyclones to a 25-0 record. Ojeleye, who signed with Duke University, averaged 38.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and also set state scoring records for points in a season (952) and career points (2,763).
2. Clay Custer, Blue Valley Northwest, junior. Custer also spearheaded an undefeated campaign, leading the Huskies (and coach Ed Fritz) to their first state title. BV Northwest’s perfect season included a win over Minnesota AAA champion, De La Salle, 30-1, whose only loss came against Custer and the Huskies during a showdown at the Target Center in early January. Custer, an Iowa State commit, averaged 22.4 points.
3. Kyle Wolf, Rockhurst, senior. If voting were done strictly on postseason play, Wolf might leapfrog into the favorite's role. He was electrifying in the Missouri Class 5 playoffs en route to a state championship and finished the season averaging 19.7 points and 10.4 rebounds.
4. Justin Pitts, Blue Springs South, senior. Were it not for Wolf and Rockhurst, perhaps the Jaguars might have won state led by Pitts, who averaged 16.4 points and was a defensive stopper on the perimeter. He is Blue Springs South’s career and single-season scoring leader.
5. Zach Schneider, SM East, senior. Selected as the Sunflower League most valuable player, Schneider averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Lancers, who finished fourth in Kansas Class 6A with a school-record 21 wins.
Here’s how the DiRenna girls race shapes up:
1. Lizzy Wendell, Blue Springs, senior. Helped Blue Springs, which was the best team in metropolitan Kansas City this season, reach the Missouri Class 5 final for the fifth straight season. Wendell signed with Drake University.
2. Kelsey Brooks, Olathe Northwest, senior. The most accomplished player in Ravens' history is now a two-time finalist – and wouldn’t be a shocking DiRenna winner by any stretch. Brooks, who signed with Arkansas, led Olathe Northwest to state for a second straight season, averaging 16.9 points, 3.4 assists, 5.3 steals and 5.1 rebounds.
3. Tia Weledji, St. Thomas Aquinas, junior. Weledji averaged 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Saints. She was clearly the best player on arguably the best girls' team in Kansas. Aquinas won the Kansas Class 5A title for the second time in three seasons.
4. Karyla Middlebrook, Blue Springs, senior. Helped Blue Springs reach the Missouri Class 5 final for the fifth straight season. Middlebrook signed with Texas Tech.
5. Maddie Nelson, Smithville, senior. Nelson helped the Warriors to a third consecutive Missouri Class 4 state tournament. Smithville, 24-5, finished third at state.
Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Challenge
All-Star Challenge Awards Show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at SM South, where the DiRenna winners will be announced.
On Friday at SM South, the Kansas vs. Missouri girls' all-star game will be played at 6 p.m., followed by the Kansas vs. Missouri boys' all-star game at 8 p.m.
A slam dunk contest will be held at halftime of the boys game.
All-Star game: 913 area players
BOYS: Trey Bales, Olathe Northwest; Tyler Clement, St. Thomas Aquinas; Montell Cozart, Bishop Miege; Scott Edwards, Blue Valley North; Joey Lillis, Blue Valley West; Josh Pedersen, SM South; Zach Schneider, SM East; Nathan Stacy, Mill Valley; Jay Temaat, SM West; Vance Wentz, SM East
GIRLS: Kelsey Brooks, Olathe Northwest; Haleigh Cindrich, St. Thomas Aquinas; Mikey Crall, Olathe Northwest; Bailey Geiman, Blue Valley; Lexi Hughes, Bishop Miege; Jaylah Jackson, Olathe Northwest; Christian Keys, Blue Valley North; Kennedy Kirkpatrick, Lawrence Free State; Stephanie Lichtenauer, Mill Valley; Ali Pollard, Blue Valley North; Hunter Thomas, Blue Valley Southwest; Tanner Tripp, Mill Valley
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him attwitter.com/todpalmer.