High School Sports

March 18, 2014

Missouri boys hoops state preview: Semifinals on deck for Lee’s Summit West boys

The Lee’s Summit West boys basketball team advances to Missouri Class 5 state tournament this week in Columbia.

The Lee’s Summit West High School boys basketball team (26-3) will play Christian Brothers College of St. Louis (23-7) at 6:50 p.m. Thursday in the Missouri Class 5 state tournament semifinals at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Here are five things to watch during the Titans’ stay in Columbia.

1. Been there, (sort of) done that

Lee’s Summit West reached the Missouri Class 5 final four two years ago when it lost in the semifinals before bouncing back to win the third-place game. None of the current Titans were regular starters for that team — although Monte Harrison played regular minutes as a sophomore — but many of the others were there.

Lee’s Summit West expanded its bench for the state tournament because coaches hoped to prepare the team’s younger players for the atmosphere.

“That was the method of the madness at the time,” Titans coach Michael Schieber said. “You want to take kids along that you think might have a shot later down the road so it’s not just totally foreign to them.”

2. Anybody’s night

The Titans have been a particularly tough matchup for opponents this season because they don’t simply rely on one go-to player. In fact, six different players have led the team in scoring. Senior Thomas Ganaden, who comes off the bench, scored 26 points in a game earlier this season.

“It certainly is one of the things as a group they take pride in,” Schieber said. “They want to find that guy whose matchup they can take advantage of.”

3. A coachable group

During halftime of the Titans’ district championship against Rockhurst, Schieber said he noticed a defining moment within his team. Prepared to point out things at halftime, he walked into the locker room only to find his players were already engaged in a discussion that emphasized many of the points he had planned to make.

“I thought at that point, with this group, they’ve reached one of the things we’ve talked about over the years — you can be a really good team being a coach-dependent team, but you can’t be a really great team,” Schieber said. “If you want to be a great team, you’re going to need guys to take things to heart and want to make them happen on your own.”

4. Does motivation matter?

Any team that reaches the state tournament semifinals has plenty to play for, but Schieber said his team has had a chip on its collective shoulder since the first day of the season.

Lee’s Summit West was routed by Rockhurst, the eventual state champion, in the district championship game last season — a game that has been on the players’ minds ever since.

“The kids really came back hungry this year,” he said. “They made it a point to get back here.”

The school’s football team — which is well represented on the basketball team — used a previous postseason loss as motivation during its Missouri Class 5 state-championship run last fall.

5. A look ahead

If Lee’s Summit West can get past CBC on Thursday, the Titans would play the winner of Hazelwood Central (25-5) and Columbia Hickman (26-2).

Hickman spent a portion of the season as the top-ranked team in Missouri Class 5 before Lee’s Summit West drilled the Kewpies 72-55 in the semifinals of the Culver’s Classic in Lee’s Summit.

That game, however, won’t mean much in a potential rematch. Hickman guard Jimmy Whitt is one of the state’s most sought after recruits in the Class of 2015.

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