North Kansas City High School coach Jeff Lacy doesn’t consider it a bold statement to say this week’s 35th annual Northland Classic is the toughest girls basketball tournament in the area this season.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
The numbers certainly make a compelling case.
All eight teams in the field entered Monday’s opening round with a .500 record or better. The tournament is being played at North Kansas City High School.
“It’s a tournament where you’re obviously playing top-notch competition, so I think it helps every team in here prepare for that final stretch run,” Lacy said. “I know it’s going to help us as we get ready to play conference games that are more intense and more pressurized.”
That’s exactly how Monday’s opening round played out, with Blue Springs South eking out a 61-59 win against the North Kansas City. The Jaguars led by 10 points at halftime before fighting off a late rally from the host school.
Blue Springs South will face unbeaten Kearney in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Kearney defeated Park Hill 58-45 in the opening round after the two teams went into the locker room tied at halftime. Park Hill and North Kansas City will meet in the consolation bracket at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Liberty and St. Joseph Central will meet in the other championship semifinal game at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Liberty won its third straight game in the first round Monday, a 58-47 victory against Park Hill South. St. Joseph Central edged St. Pius X 40-35.
St. Pius X and Park Hill South will meet in a consolation game at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The championship game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
Boys game of week: Grandview at Liberty North, 8 p.m. Friday
Any matchup involving Liberty North is a safe bet these days to produce a competitive basketball game. Just look at the Eagles’ results. Their past nine games have all been decided by single digits, and they have played three overtime games this season. Each of their six losses have been decided by six points or fewer.
A tilt with Grandview should be no different. Liberty North, 11-6, and Grandview, 11-5, are the only two teams yet to drop a Suburban Blue Conference game.
Liberty North is trying to repeat as conference champions, an effort led by senior post player Brinkley Jolly, the team’s leading scorer. Jolly reached 1,000 career points earlier this season.
Grandview has dropped three of five since its 9-2 start, but the Bulldogs have plenty of offensive firepower with point guard Tyrone Taylor (19.4 points per game), Nelson Nweke (12.1), Damon King (9.5) and Nathan Scott (7.7).
Girls game of week: Lawson at North Platte, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Lawson will travel into hostile territory next week to face one of the hottest teams in the Kansas City Interscholastic Conference. North Platte has put together a surprising 14-game winning streak after finishing last season with a losing record in conference play.
North Platte has lost only once this season, but here’s the kicker: Lawson was responsible for it. The Cardinals, 11-7, defeated North Platte 59-55 in the KCI Tournament in December.
Lawson produces a balanced scoring effort, led by Kerstin Huffman, who scores 13.9 points per game. Keely Simmons adds 8.7 points per contest, while Kolbie Chancellor is the team’s leading rebounder.
Lawson, North Platte and Lathrop are tied for first in the KCI Conference with 3-0 records.