For the first time in nearly seven years, high school basketball is returning to Municipal Auditorium.
And it’s returning in style, too.
The inaugural Best of the Midwest Showcase will feature eight games Saturday that spotlight ranked teams from three different states. The slate includes four teams ranked in the latest Missouri Class 5 poll alone.
An all-day pass to the event is $9.50 for adults and $6.50 for students.
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Here are five things to watch:
1. Best in Missouri?
Blue Springs South is the lone undefeated team remaining in Missouri Class 5 rankings, but the Jaguars have held steady at No. 3 in the latest state poll.
Why? Chaminade and Webster Groves have been awfully impressive this season.
But the Jaguars have a chance to prove they belong in the conversation among the state’s elite teams. They will meet Webster Groves at 8:30 p.m. in the finale of the Best of the Midwest Showcase.
Blue Springs South senior Kevin Puryear continued his march toward a possible DiRenna Award with 35 points in a victory Tuesday against Lee’s Summit West. Add in a talented backcourt that features K.J. Robinson and Brandon Kilgore, and that makes the Jaguars especially potent — and exciting to watch.
Webster Groves, 16-2, may lack that same star power — its leading scorers, Alex Floresca and Stephen Harris, are averaging 10.4 points per game — but it’s allowing only 40.4 points per contest over an 11-game winning streak.
2. State champs battle
Ah, what a difference one year makes.
If this showcase took place last season, there’s little question that the 2:30 p.m. matchup between Blue Valley Northwest and Christian Brothers College would highlight the day.
Blue Valley Northwest won its second consecutive Kansas Class 6A state championship last season, and CBC won an overtime thriller against Hickman to capture the Missouri Class 5 title.
But while the remaining talent is far from bare, the teams haven’t replicated last season’s success. At least not yet.
Blue Valley Northwest lost its entire starting five from last season’s state-championship team and has endured a rebuilding year as a result. The Huskies are 4-6.
A victory against a defending state champion could be a nice way to kickstart a second-half surge. CBC, 11-6, is starting to gain some momentum after a 5-4 start and is ranked No. 10 in Missouri Class 5. Christian Willis leads the team with 16.5 points per game.
3. On the rise?
A talented roster produced lofty expectations for Lee’s Summit, but a combination of injuries, illnesses, suspensions and other absences led to a less-than-stellar start. The Tigers were 3-5 after a Jan. 6 loss at Park Hill South.
Things are picking up. In a hurry.
An overtime victory against Blue Springs on Tuesday provided Lee’s Summit with its seventh-straight victory. Drew Lock scored 29 points in the win after scoring 30 in the team’s championship-game win in the Culver’s Classic only four days earlier.
Lee’s Summit, 10-5, is averaging 73.1 points per game during its winning streak and will play Kickapoo at 7 p.m. in the Showcase. Kickapoo, 15-2, is ranked seventh in Missouri Class 5.
4. Top recruits
Not all of the event’s most talented players reside in Kansas City.
A pair of them will be pitted against each other in the 5:30 p.m. matchup between Hickman and Sioux City North (Iowa).
Hickman guard Jimmy Whitt is the top-ranked senior in Missouri and ranked No. 51 nationally. He has signed with Arkansas.
Sioux City North forward Daniel Tillo has received interest from mid-major programs. He is averaging a double-double this season and helped his team reached the Iowa Class 4A semifinals last year.
5. Best of the rest
Smithville and St. James Academy will meet at 11:30 a.m. in the lone girls game. Smithville is ranked No. 7 in Missouri Class 4. … The Olathe North and Lee’s Summit North boys will kick off the event at 10 a.m. Olathe North is ranked third in Kansas Class 6A. … Lansing, which plays Lawrence Free State at 4 p.m., is the Kansas Class 5A defending state champion.
BEST OF MIDWEST SCHEDULE
Saturday at Municipal Auditorium
10 a.m.: Olathe North vs. Lee’s Summit North
11:30 a.m.: Smithville vs. St. James Academy (girls)
1 p.m.: Liberty vs. Gardner-Edgerton
2:30 p.m.: Blue Valley Northwest vs. Christian Brothers College
4 p.m.: Lansing vs. Free State
5:30 p.m.: Hickman vs. Sioux City North (Iowa)
7 p.m.: Lee’s Summit vs. Springfield Kickapoo
8:30 p.m.: Blue Springs South vs. Webster Groves