Here are five things to watch — post holiday break — on the Missouri high school boys basketball side.
1. As the high school basketball season prepares to enter conference play, only two teams from the four Suburban Conferences remained unbeaten heading into Tuesday night’s games.
One was expected. The other? Not so much.
Blue Springs South is the lone Kansas City area-team featured in the Missouri Class 5 state rankings, where it sits at No. 4. So it serves as no surprise the Jaguars began the season with nine straight victories.
As for their counterparts across town — the Blue Springs Wildcats — that undefeated record qualifies as a bit of a surprise. After all, the Wildcats are 9-0 only one season after finishing 14-12.
What makes the Wildcats particularly dangerous moving forward is their ability to garner production from a variety of sources, with senior Kirk Finley taking the most turns in that rotation.
“We’ve got some options. We’re not just relying on one guy,” Wildcats coach Adam Jones said. “... And that’s comforting to have.”
Blue Springs won the Patterson Division in the recent William Jewell Holiday Classic. Blue Springs South won the Cardinal Division.
Blue Springs will play host to Blue Springs South on Jan. 30 before making the return trip on Feb. 13.
2. The Park Hill and Park Hill South rivalry has long been one of the best in the Northland. But it could turn up a notch this season.
Based on the early-season production from both teams, it’s safe to say Park Hill and Park Hill South are the two favorites to compete for the Suburban Red Conference crown.
Led by Wichita State-signee Landry Shamet, Park Hill is 8-1 entering play Tuesday after it won the Nelson Division of the William Jewell Holiday Classic. The Trojans have the ability to attack the basket from a variety of avenues.
Park Hill South is keeping pace — at least in its non-conference schedule. The Panthers have won five straight since a loss to Barstow on Dec. 4.
The two rivals meet at Park Hill on Jan. 30 and at Park Hill South on Feb. 13.
3. Raytown entered the season with lofty expectations, but the Blue Jays dropped their first five games — in heartbreaking style, too.
Can they bounce back for conference play The talent suggests Raytown can still compete for the Suburban White Conference title — a race that should include Liberty North, Staley and possible even William Chrisman, too.
Jailen Gill, Derrick Walker and Brandon Sublett are a dangerous scoring trio, but they must figure out ways to finish off victories. Raytown’s six losses this season have come by an average of only four points. That includes a pair of overtime defeats.
4. The six-team Suburban Blue Conference offers the biggest question mark among the bunch. It features only one team — Raytown South — that survived non-conference play with a winning record.
Grandview, Kearney and Belton are playing under new coaches, and the growing pains have been evident as they implement new systems. But with league games set to begin, are those three on solid enough footing to challenge Raytown South for the conference championship?
The Cardinals are led by junior Bryan Trimble, who is averaging 15.3 points per game, and senior forward Tyrone Gibbs, who is posting 13.8 points per contest.
5. Municipal Arena will play host to the inaugural Best of the Midwest Showcase on Jan. 31 — a one-day event that will feature several top teams from the metro and beyond.
Blue Springs South will play Webster Groves in the marquee matchup at 8:30 p.m.. Both teams have state-title aspirations and are among the top-four ranked teams in the state.
Lee’s Summit and Kickapoo, the state’s No. 1-ranked team, will precede that game. Liberty and Lee’s Summit North will also take part in the tournament.