Lee’s Summit West coach Michael Schieber stood outside a locker room at Raymore-Peculiar High School two weeks ago, preparing his thoughts for a motivational halftime speech. With his team only one half away from winning a basketball district championship, Schieber took a few steps into the locker room before realizing he didn’t need a speech after all.
The Titans had already gathered in the middle of the room without their coach, hashing out the adjustments it would take to close out a victory against Rockhurst.
They worked, too. Lee’s Summit West prevailed 70-51.
“I thought at that point, with this group, they’ve reached (the stage) 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 their own.”
It was a defining moment for the Titans, who will play Christian Brothers College in the Missouri Class 5 semifinals at 6:50 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
Also in the Final Four, the Lee’s Summit North girls team saw its defining moment come much earlier in the season. In fact, it took place before the Broncos even played a game.
After one practice two weeks into the preseason, Lee’s Summit North coach Tricia Lillygren had already realized her team’s potential. She didn’t hide it, either. She told her team it was capable of playing for a state championship in March.
“They were pumped up,” Lillygren said. “They were feeling good about that. We were trying to find any way we could to motivate them.”
The Broncos have made good on that promise, and they will meet Eureka in the Missouri Class 5 girls semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
Lee’s Summit North is back in the Final Four for the first time since winning the state championship in 2002.
The gap between trips to Columbia has been much shorter for Lee’s Summit West, which finished third in the state two years ago. That team was led by Shaquille Harrison, who is now playing point guard under Danny Manning at Tulsa.
This season’s team is led by Shaquille’s brother, Monte, who was announced Tuesday as a finalist for the DiRenna Award, preserved annually for the top high school basketball player in Kansas City.
Lee’s Summit North forward Imani Johnson was named a finalist for the girls award.