The Star spotlights Missouri high school girls basketball players, teams, and storylines to watch this season, centralizing on the Kansas City area.
Stacked in the post
A comprehensive look at the top talent on the Missouri side of the state line points towards one area of strength in particular.
More specifically, forwards who can score.
The area is brimming with go-to post players. Kearney three-sport standout Callie Schwarzenbach averaged 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last year and has the Bulldogs off to an unbeaten start in the opening month of the season. She is the school record holder for blocks in a game (eight) and field goals in a game (15). Schwarzenbach will play volleyball at Nebraska, but only after finishing an all-state career in track in the spring.
Park Hill South junior Alecia Westbrook is already drawing Division I interest, which includes an offer from Creighton, after averaging a double-double as a sophomore with 15.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest. She has been a regular in the Panthers’ rotation since her freshman season.
Barstow senior Kate Walsworth is the leader of a team playing multiple freshmen in its rotation, returning after scoring 21 points per game. Walsworth has already reached the 1,000-point milestone.
And Lee’s Summit North’s Aiyana Johnson is ready to shoulder more of the load after the graduation of her older sister. Johnson scored 14.8 points per outing a year ago.
And on the wing, too....
It’s not all about the forwards, of course.
Chandler Prater, a junior wing player at North Kansas City, has already won her conference player of the year award twice. The Hornets are one of the area’s most dangerous teams this season, especially with Prater at the helm. She recorded 18.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in 2016-17. The high-level college interest in Prater will be plentiful.
Lee’s Summit guard Claire Lock is the only returning starter from a team that reached the Missouri Class 5 state championship game, but she can fill it up in a hurry. There’s a lot of reasons to believe Lock, who has signed with UMKC, can best her 15 points per outing from a year ago. She is the younger sister of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock.
Similar leadership will be tasked on Liberty senior Kayel Newland, a sharp-shooting wing who has committed to Illinois State.
The defending Suburban Conference champions
A pair of Suburban Conference teams skated through league play undefeated a year ago, and each is in a position to prolong the momentum into another season.
Truman, coming off of a 20-win campaign and a Suburban Red Conference title, has nearly all of its pieces back this year, including four all-conference players — Erin Davis, Brodi Byrd, Deon Monroe and Jewel Hart. The Patriots are deadly from the perimeter.
Lee’s Summit North, the Suburban Gold Conference defending champion, has some parts to replace, but there’s a lot returning, too. That includes forward Aiyana Johnson and junior guard Anija Frazier, a pair of first team all-conference members last season who combined for 25 points per game. Johnson has signed with Stephen F. Austin.
Kearney is aiming for its sixth straight league title in the Suburban Blue Conference, and the bulk of its team is back. It’s an athletic bunch, with many of the team’s contributors excelling in multiple sports.
North Kansas City is in prime position to make noise in the Suburban White Conference.
The Missouri high school state championships move to Springfield in March, after an extended stay at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. The championship games will be played at JQH Arena, the home of Missouri State. The Class 1-3 Final Four is scheduled for March 8-10, and the Class 4 and 5 Final Four will take place the following weekend, March 15-17.