Here are five highlights related to Northland high schools that we’ve learned during the first month of the winter sports season:
1. Liberty is a state-championship contender in Missouri Class 5 girls
The Blue Jays’ appearance in the Missouri Class 5 state championship last March was certainly no fluke. Liberty is 10-1 this season, and it notched one of the biggest wins in program history last week.
The Blue Jays defeated three-time defending New York state-champion Ossining in the semifinals of the KSA Tournament in Orlando on Wednesday before falling in the Magenta Bracket championship game, which was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
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Senior forward Morgan Fleming is a dynamic scorer who is drawing Division I interest, and the Blue Jays are a cohesive group defensively. Interestingly enough, they were ranked only No. 9 in the preseason state poll.
They should climb. Quickly.
2. Liberty North senior Michael Hughes is a game-changing defender
As good as Michael Hughes is offensively — and he might be one of the top low-post weapons in the area — he’s arguably even more valuable on the defensive end of the floor.
Liberty North defeated Rockhurst 59-48 to win the Cardinal Division of the William Jewell Holiday Classic last week. Hughes had 23 points and 15 rebounds.
But his shot-blocking presence on the defensive end of the floor prevented Rockhurst from even sniffing close-range looks. Instead, the Hawklets consistently settled for jumpers, while Hughes lurked in the paint.
That’s no coincidence.
3. Some of the nation’s best high school wrestlers reside in Platte County
The Pirates have three wrestlers who received national rankings in the latest release from FloWrestling.com. Matthew Schmitt is No. 14 in the 126-pound class; Ethan Karsten is No. 17 at 145 pounds; and Johnny Blankenship is No. 12 at 160 pounds.
Schmitt and Karsten are both undefeated this season after winning the Gardner-Edgerton Invitational and the Kansas City Stampede last month. Blankenship is 13-2.
4. Tori Beeler is a state-championship caliber swimmer in just about every event
In the past two years, Park Hill South senior Tori Beeler has won three Missouri swimming state championships. As a junior, she broke a state record with her time in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 3.65 seconds).
The dominance continues.
Beeler has recorded a top-three time in the state in seven different events already this season. She’s ranked first in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
5. St. Pius X could make a competitive postseason run in Missouri Class 3 girls basketball
The Warriors won six of their first seven games, with three victories against Class 5 teams, and their only loss is an eight-point defeat to Liberty.
St. Pius X is led by junior forward Abby Hipp, who is averaging 13.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, but what truly makes the Warriors dangerous is their scoring balance. Junior Natalie Denzer (11.3 points per game), sophomore Antoinette Mussorici (9.7) and junior Amanda Hayes (7.4) are also reliable options.
The Warriors are shooting 47 percent from the field.