The Missouri Class 5 boys and girls high school basketball state semifinals will take place Friday in Columbia, with the third-place games and championship games scheduled for the following day at Mizzou Arena.
A shakeup in the Class 5 district assignments allowed two teams from Kansas City to reach the boys semifinals — Blue Springs South and Park Hill South.
Liberty has qualified in the Class 5 girls bracket.
Here’s more on those three teams’ semifinal matchups:
CLASS 5 BOYS
WHO: Blue Springs South (27-2) vs. St. Louis University High School (19-11)
WHEN/WHERE: 2:30 p.m. Friday at Mizzou Arena
KEY PLAYER: SLUH likes to play fast, which is welcome news for Blue Springs South junior KJ Robinson, a speedy point guard who is averaging 16.5 points per game this season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Blue Springs South navigated a grueling path to reach its first state semifinal game in program history. It defeated previously one-loss Nixa 54-52 in the quarterfinals Saturday, when Kevin Puryear provided a game-winning dunk with 14 seconds remaining.
But after facing Nixa’s zone on Saturday, the Jaguars must shift gears to play a SLUH team that likes to get up and down the court offensively and force the tempo with a pressing man-to-man defense.
Blue Springs South has played against teams that feature similar styles — Lee’s Summit and Webster Groves, for example — and the Jaguars’ speed in the backcourt, led by Robinson and Brandon Kilgore, allows them to find success in that tempo.
Puryear, Blue Springs South’s leading scorer at 21 points per game, can run the floor, too, and he will present matchup problems for SLUH in the halfcourt.
UP NEXT: The winner will meet the Chaminade-Park Hill South winner in the Class 5 state championship at 6:40 p.m. Saturday.
QUOTABLE: On reaching the state tournament, Blue Springs South coach Jimmy Cain said, “We've had teams who have won conference championships, district championships, tournament championships. The only goal this team talked about was winning the whole thing.”
CLASS 5 BOYS
WHO: Park Hill South (25-3) vs. Chaminade (24-3)
WHEN/WHERE: 4:15 p.m. Friday at Mizzou Arena
KEY PLAYER: Park Hill South point guard James Byrd has scored 39 points over the past two games.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: When he took over the program last spring, Park Hill South coach Dan Parra was adamant the team play faster this season.
That style has been a perfect fit for the Panthers’ personnel, most notably for point guard James Byrd, who rarely saw the court last season. Park Hill South is a balanced group with clearly-defined roles. Junior Ryan Welty is a deadly shooter from the perimeter.
But Chaminade brings the most talented roster to Columbia this weekend, a group led by 6-8 junior Jayson Tatum, the top-ranked recruit in the 2016 class on ESPN.com. Tatum is a high flier capable of playing any position on the court, and he's averaging 26.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game this season. He has yet to pick a college destination.
Chaminade, ranked first in the state's coaches poll, is unbeaten against in-state opponents this season.
UP NEXT: The winner will meet the Blue Springs South-St. Louis University High School winner in the Class 5 state championship at 6:40 p.m. Saturday.
QUOTABLE: About playing in big games, Byrd said, “I think you're always going to be nervous before the tip. But once the game starts, you have to remember you've been playing basketball your whole life and just go out and be yourself.”
CLASS 5 GIRLS
WHO: Liberty (26-3) vs. Parkway North (24-5)
WHEN/WHERE: 7:45 p.m. Friday, at Mizzou Arena
KEY PLAYER: Liberty junior Morgan Fleming reached 1,000 career points in the Blue Jays’ sectional win against Park Hill. She leads the team with 15.5 points per game this season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Liberty has been the most consistent girls team in Kansas City since the new year. The Blue Jays have won 21 of 22 since the calendar rolled over, and they are taking an 11-game winning streak into the state semifinals. They’ve won 10 of those 11 games by double digits.
What’s been the key to the streak?
Liberty has become one of the hardest teams in the state to score against — a factor heightened by its ability to limit second-chance opportunities. The Blue Jays have allowed only 34.3 points per game during the postseason. They out-rebound opponents by an average of eight rebounds per game.
Chiarra Franklin leads the team with eight rebounds per contest.
UP NEXT: The winner will meet the Cor Jesu Academy-Rock Bridge winner in the Class 5 state championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
QUOTABLE: Asked why his team has reached this stage, Liberty coach Noah Simpson said, “I think it's our defense and our tough mental attitude. It’s a hard-working group of kids who focused the majority of their time on defense and rebounding. That's not always typical at this level, because defense and rebounding aren't the most exciting things to do.”