Each time the Kearney High School girls basketball team goes on the road, it takes a motivational sign along for the bus ride.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
The Bulldogs tape the piece of paper — which reads “30” — inside the visitors’ locker room, hanging it just above the door. It represents their game-by-game defensive goal.
So on their way out to the court, the players jump up and slap it.
“We try to hold every team under 30 points,” Kearney coach Troy Resler said. “We preach defense as coaches, and they buy into that side of it. They really focus on that goal. It’s a big deal to them.”
It’s certainly a lofty goal, but it’s one the Bulldogs often reach, which explains their 11-0 record.
Meagan Paul leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 8.9 points per game. Allie Hess, Chandler Gallagher, Laura Barrow and Taylor Doan follow closely behind in scoring average, but offense is not the point.
“We know defense isn’t the most fun thing to do in the world, but when you have five seniors, it’s a little easier to preach it because they know it works,” Resler said. “They don’t care about their (statistics) or anything like that on offense. This is such a competitive group (that) they want to play the brand of basketball that wins. Defense wins.”
Boys game of week: Oak Park at Raytown, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Here’s a statistic not many could have predicted: Raytown is the only remaining undefeated team in the Suburban White Conference. Why does that come as a surprise? Well, the Blue Jays finished 6-18 last season.
They have easily eclipsed that win total already, having improved to 9-4 overall and 4-0 in the conference with a 69-59 victory against rival Raytown South at the Sprint Center on Monday, a game in which forward Jailen Gill scored 20 points in a dominant low-post performance. Gill, a 6-foot-7 junior, averages 16.1 points per game.
The victory kept Raytown atop the league standings, but Oak Park is nipping at the Blue Jays’ heels. And that represents another surprise after the Northmen finished 5-7 in the league last season.
Oak Park has won three of its first four conference games and could l even with Raytown with a win on the road. It’s a difficult task already, but Oak Park will be hindered as it continues to play without leading scorer Ryan Jackson, who has a fractured thumb.
Girls game of week: Lee’s Summit North at Liberty, 7 p.m. Monday
If this is truly the year to end the Blue Springs dynasty in the Suburban Gold Conference, Lee’s Summit North, Liberty and Blue Springs South are the teams with the best shot to do it.
But they will have to do more than beat Blue Springs. They will have to fare well against one another, too.
Lee’s Summit North, 10-2, will begin a string of 10 straight conference games with its trip to Liberty. Both of the Broncos’ losses this season have come against Truman — by a combined eight points. Lee’s Summit North is led by double-double machine Imani Johnson in the post.
Liberty, meanwhile, has some catching up to do after dropping its conference home opener to Blue Springs, a four-point loss at home. But in a tightly-competitive league, there’s plenty of time to play catch up.