After opening the presents and before ringing in the new year, 24 boys basketball teams from across the Kansas City area will get to devote some serious time to hoops.
That’s part of the appeal of the William Jewell Holiday Classic, which will tip off for the 38th year on Dec. 27 at the Mabee Center in Liberty.
With no classes to worry about and the hustle and bustle of Christmas behind, players and coaches can spend four days focused on basketball.
“It’s kind of fun for high school kids, especially because it’s just all about basketball,” Lee’s Summit West coach Michael Schieber said. “We get to go study film, study our opponents, study ourselves, really kind of embrace preparing. That’s the biggest thing.”
West (5-0) is preparing for four challenging games as the No. 1 seed in the Cardinal Division.
The Titans open 4:30 p.m. Dec. 28 against Summit Christian Academy, which is making its first-ever appearance in the tournament. SCA, under first-year coach Jacob Derritt, is 4-5 after losing Tuesday against Hogan Prep 71-58.
West, ranked No. 1 in Missouri Class 5, won the Nelson Division last year and has taken home a title from one of the tournament’s three divisions in six of the last seven seasons.
“I’m sure Summit Christian’s got a target on us,” Schieber said. “They’re going to come out and play hard.”
Liberty is seeded second in the Cardinal Division and faces Lincoln Prep in the first round, while No. 3 seed Blue Springs South meets Kearney and No. 4 seed Raytown battles Staley in the first round.
“We’ll have to bounce back every day and be ready to play,” Schieber said. “We’re going to play some good basketball teams up there. We’re going to face a test and we’ve got to be ready.”
Lee’s Summit is in the Patterson Division and will meet No. 3 seed Park Hill South at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 in the opening round.
Top-seeded Grandview meets Smithville, No. 2 seed Oak Park plays St. Joseph Central and No. 4 seed Liberty North takes on Raymore-Peculiar in other first-round Patterson Division games Dec. 27.
This year’s Nelson Division first-round pairings Dec. 27 are No. 1 seed North Kansas City vs. Truman, No. 2 seed Park Hill vs. Fort Osage, No. 3 seed Rockhurst vs. Winnetonka and No.4 seed Blue Springs vs. Center.
The tournament continues with semifinals and loser’s bracket games Dec. 29 and Dec. 30.
The Nelson Division championship is set for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 followed by the Patterson Division championship at 7:15 p.m. and the Cardinal Division final at 9 p.m.