Two state basketball postseason runs — one expected, one out of the blue. A record-smashing leap in the night. A record-setting goal scorer. And a new team in town.
These were just a few of the highlights from the Lee’s Summit area sports scene in 2017.
Here’s a look back on some of the major stories from another year marked with big triumphs and close calls.
Titans come up short
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Lee’s Summit West had never made it to the championship game during its first two trips to the Class 5 state boys’ basketball tournament. The third time would be the charm.
Unfortunately for the Titans, a buzz saw awaited them on the other side of the bracket.
West’s 26-3 season ended with a 70-35 whipping from Webster Groves in the final March 18 at Mizzou Arena.
Even with a lineup that featured 6-foot-8 senior Elijah Childs, 6-7 junior Christian Bishop and veteran guards Phillip Brooks and Mario Goodrich, West could do nothing to stop Webster Grove’s sharpshooting guard Courtney Ramey and 6-foot-9 center Carte’Are Gordon.
Ramey, who had been committed to Louisville before Rick Pitino was fired, scored 25 points on 7-for-14 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Gordon, who signed in November with St. Louis University, punished the Titans inside for 21 points on 8-for-8 shooting and grabbed seven boards.
“Ramey is a really good player,” West coach Michael Schieber said. “We talked about keeping him away from the rim, but there are some nights when guys are hitting shots and they’re just plain unguardable.”
West had been plain unbeatable most of the season. They won the Suburban Gold Conference title and rolled to the Class 5, District 13 title.
Tigers’ stunning run
It wasn’t surprising to see a team from Lee’s Summit in the Class 5 girls basketball state final. What was surprising was which Lee’s Summit team it turned out to be.
Lee’s Summit North seemed a sure bet to make a deep playoff run as it rolled up a 24-0 record in the regular season.
But when the Broncos suffered a stunning 47-46 loss to Belton in the Class 5, District 13 semifinals, the door swung open for Lee’s Summit.
The Tigers beat Belton in the district final and, despite beginning postseason play with an 11-13 record, wouldn’t lose again until falling against Kirkwood 43-36 in the final March 18 at Mizzou Arena.
Lee’s Summit hadn’t been to state in girls’ basketball since 2005, and this team didn’t start out looking as if it would break that streak. But as they advanced through the bracket, the Tigers’ confidence grew.
“Honestly, throughout those four games that it took to get to (state), there’s no (moment) where I felt like we were going to lose,” Lee’s Summit coach Jessica Crawford said. “We kind of felt like we were going to win every game.”
Queen of the high jump
Ever since she was a freshman, one high jump goal had kept eluding Carlie Queen, and it had made the Summit Christian Academy senior’s trips to the Missouri state track meet less than satisfying, almost disappointing: the all-class record of 5 feet, 9 inches that had stood since 2000.
On May 27, in the shadows of a darkened Jefferson City High School stadium and nearly five hours after she was supposed to compete, Queen claimed that record — and then some.
Queen broke with a leap of 5-9 1/4 then embellished it with a personal-best 5-11.
“It was great to finally get that record,” said Queen, who lives in Pleasant Hill. “I’ve been chasing it since my freshman year.”
Queen set the all-Class 2 record of 5-7 3/4 as freshman when she won the first of her four state titles, but she never matched it as a sophomore or a junior as she battled injuries.
When severe weather shut down the meet after 12:30 p.m. and kept it from resuming until after 6:00, she feared this would be another disappointing day, but it ended with a goal that had long eluded her.
“I’ve just never since that day had a good day at state, whether it was for injuries or not just on,” said Queen, who is now competing at Arkansas. “And I kind of thought it was going to start out the same way today.”
The Titans of girls track
Lee’s Summit West set a Class 5 girls’ state track record when it won the 2016 team championship with 96 points. Last spring, the Titans took it up a notch.
West not only defended its title May 27, but it did so by scoring 109 points, the most ever accumulated by any team — girls or boys — in any class in the state meet.
The Titans defended their title the same way it dominated the competition all season — with sheer numbers.
West had qualifiers in all 17 events and scored points in all but one. Four individuals — Makayla Kelby (discus), Jessica Haney (high jump), Erin Sermons (400-meter dash) and Jana Shawver (800) — brought home gold medals, as did the 3,200 relay.
“It’s hard to repeat, hard to win here,” Titans girls’ track coach Jesse Griffin said. “It’s a tribute to the girls, who really worked together.”
Griffin received a tribute himself after the season when he was selected the 2017 National High School Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Bresette golden again
Liam Bresette came to the Missouri Class 2 swimming and diving championships looking to take home two more gold medals. To no one’s surprise, that’s just what he did.
As expected, Bresette, a Lee’s Summit North senior, won state titles in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 37.04 seconds) and 100 freestyle (44.56), establishing new state records in both events Nov. 4 at St. Peters Rec-Plex.
Broncos freshman Daniel Worth captured the day’s final individual title, winning the 100 breaststroke in 57.07 and edging Lee’s Summit senior Andy Huffman’s by 0.03 seconds.
North’s 200 medley relay team of Grant Godard, Worth, Lance Godard, and Bresette also won a state title (1:34.96) in helping pace the area’s best team finish, third with 221 points despite qualifying only seven swimmers.
“This is a great example of quality,” Broncos coach Brian Ray said. “We had seven guys total, six guys in the finals. To be able to pull a third-place finish, they carried this meet.”
Girls soccer greatness
Summit Christian Academy made a return trip to the Class 1 state girls soccer tournament behind senior Kassi Ginther, who knocked in an astounding 123 goals last season.
Ginther added to her total with a goal in the state championship match against St. Vincent, but the Eagles struggled to get her another during a 2-1 loss June 1 at Swope Soccer Village.
She ended her SCA career with a national high-school record 319 goals.
SCA (24-4) finished one victory shy of the first team championship in the school’s history. Ginther found some consolation in getting to play for a state championship before heading off to Iowa State.
“I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life,” Ginther said. “I was really blessed and honored to play for SCA.”
A Lee’s Summit team was guaranteed to make the Class 4 final when Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West both made the final four — on the same side of the bracket.
North won the city showdown 2-0 on two Kaylie Rock goals but lost to Eureka 2-1 in the final.
Enter the Guardians
When St. Michael the Archangel opened its doors last August, it did so with a full slate of 16 varsity sports, if not a full slate of facilities.
The new Catholic high school in Lee’s Summit still needs football, baseball and soccer fields and one day the gym will have bleachers on both sides. But there is one thing St. Michaels already has: a state-tournament team.
St. Michael’s volleyball team made it to the Class 2 state tournament Oct. 27-28 in Cape Girardeau and finished in fourth place.
The Guardians, with only two seniors and teammates who were mostly unfamiliar with each other at first, started off the season 3-8 and stood 13-14-2 entering the postseason.
“Our team has throughout the year continued to surprise me by how hard they want to work,” St. Michaels coach Sheridan Zarda said. “And I knew if they wanted to work hard and they wanted to go get it, they could go get it.”