The Patriots lost only one game last season, but it was enough to send them home early in the playoffs. Kearney defeated Truman in the district championship last March, ending the Patriots’ bid for an unbeaten season. Truman returns with two Division I players — guard Abby Hix has signed with Georgia Southern and post player Becca Jonas will attend Drake — along with Kayla Harrell, who signed with Southwest Baptist, an NCAA Division II program.
They’re rarely flashy, but they sure know how to win. The Warriors have reached the Missouri Class 4 semifinals three straight seasons, and they’re equipped to make another postseason run. While they must find a way to replace point guard Maddie Nelson — the undisputed leader of last year’s team — the Warriors will again have plenty of depth. Forward Paige Imhoff and shooting guard Bethany Pierce return as starters, with Kelsey Mothershead, Kyli Nelson and Taryn Mosby serving as key contributors.
Four seniors graduated from last season’s 25-win team, but there’s plenty to like about the Bulldogs’ returning nucleus. That starts with junior post player Taylor Doan, who averaged a team-best 10.6 points per game last season. Three-point specialist Meagan Paul also returns, along with point guard Jessi Hartzler. Allie Hess, Laura Barrow and Chandler Gallagher will also be key parts of the rotation.
The Wildcats have represented Kansas City in the Missouri Class 5 state tournament five straight seasons. A return trip to Mizzou Arena won’t come easy. Lizzy Wendell, last year’s leading scorer, has moved on to Drake, and point guard Karyla Middlebrook is at Alabama. Blue Springs, without a senior on its roster, will look for sharp-shooting Aliyah Lee and center Morgan McMahan to expand their offensive production.
Park Hill South
The Panthers provided one of the area’s biggest surprises last season, when they started 16-1 before finishing 21-5. They’re out to prove that was no fluke. Senior guard Samantha Roy — a defensive catalyst who can also score — will be counted on to log heavy minutes for a Park Hill South team looking to improve its bench production.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aries Washington, North Kansas City, senior
Despite battling through ankle injuries most of her high school career, Washington stands only 120 points shy of 1,000. She will try to lead the Hornets to a second straight Suburban Conference White championship. Washington has signed to play at UMKC.
Monique Townson, Staley, senior
After teaming with Marissa Preston in an imposing backcourt last season, Townson will be asked to shoulder more of the load this season. A guard that can score from anywhere on the floor, she averaged 20 points per game last season, and Staley finished 14-12. Townson has signed with Arkansas Little-Rock.
Imani Johnson, Lee’s Summit North, senior
It took Johnson only 62 games to reach the 1,000-point mark in her career. She is a force on the low block who commands attention and knows how to draw fouls. Johnson averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season while shooting 42 percent from the field. She has signed with Southeast Missouri State.
Asia Cole, Fort Osage, senior
While she is better known for her skills in the shot put and discus throws, Cole is a major contributor on the basketball court as well. She has spent the past two seasons developing her moves as a post player and will look to help Fort Osage compete for a conference title.
Remy Davenport, Blue Springs South, senior
One of the top outside shooters in the area, Davenport has made 166 three-pointers in her high school career. She returns as the Jaguars’ second leading scorer from last season (11.4 points per game), as does junior forward Cloe Lane, giving Blue Springs South a formidable duo.
FIVE MUST-SEE GAMES
Notre Dame de Sion at Pleasant Hill, Jan. 6
It’s a payback opportunity for Pleasant Hill. The Roosters’ 21-win season abruptly ended last year when Sion guard Grace Keane hit a game-winning three at the buzzer in the Missouri Class 4 playoffs. Sion senior Kristen Murphy is a returning all-state selection.
Liberty at Raymore-Peculiar, Jan. 9
Blue Springs graduated four starters, which seemingly opens the door in the Suburban Gold Conference race. Liberty and Raymore-Peculiar are two teams looking to throw themselves in the mix for the championship. Liberty finished second last season, while Raymore-Peculiar was fourth.
O’Hara at St. Pius X, Jan. 14
Although O’Hara swept its rival in two regular season games last year, it was St. Pius X that won a district championship. Both teams expect to be contenders in Missouri Class 3 this season, and one of their truest tests of that will be when they match up in January.
North Kansas City vs. Staley, Jan. 21
For the second straight season, the rivals will meet at the Sprint Center on Martin Luther King Day as part of the Time Warner Cable Basketball Showcase. Last season, North Kansas City freshman Selena Salas hit a game-winning three at the buzzer for a 45-44 win.
Blue Springs South at Lee’s Summit, Feb. 24
The Suburban Gold Conference foes split their two matchups last season, with each game decided by only three points, including an overtime tilt. Lee’s Summit remains young, but coach Jessica Crawford expects her team to be a surprise in conference play.