• Shawn Garrison: District basketball tourneys offer plenty of story lines

  • This is my favorite time of the year on the area high school sports calendar with district basketball tournaments for most Eastern Jackson County schools starting Saturday or next week.

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  • This is my favorite time of the year on the area high school sports calendar with district basketball tournaments for most Eastern Jackson County schools starting Saturday or next week.
    The area hoops scene is loaded this year on the boys and girls sides, which should make for a memorable postseason. Here's a rundown of the story lines to keep an eye on:
    • The boys Class 5 District 15 bracket is easily the toughest in the city as well as its most compelling. Fort Osage (19-4) is having arguably the greatest season in school history and yet the Indians are seeded second and will be fortunate if they can repeat last year's district title run.
    Liberty earned the No. 1 seed, which I love if I'm Fort coach Josh Wilson. Sure, the Blue Jays play a more rugged schedule in the Suburban Big Six than the Indians. But I'm not sure their body of work is any more impressive than Fort's. The Indians, who are one of the most motivated teams I've ever covered to begin with, can enter the tourney with that extra chip on their shoulder.
    The field also features a William Chrisman-Truman first-round contest that could be a good one. The Patriots won the regular-season meeting over the Bears 77-57, but that was during Chrisman's 2-8 start. The Bears have gone 10-2 since.
    It's worth noting that Fort, Chrisman and Truman could all finish with winning records for the first time since 1969 – a testament to the quality of hoops in Independence this season.
    • Jimmy Cain deserves a lot of credit for the job he's done with the Blue Springs South boys this season. Sure, the Jaguars returned a decent nucleus with speedy guards Justin Pitts and Carl Martin back. But I thought South would take a step back with the departure of 2012 Examiner Player of the Year D.J. Booker and reliable big man Wes Poke.
    Instead, the Class 5 No. 2-ranked Jaguars (22-2) have improved and have a good shot at making it to the final four. The emergence of 6-foot-8 sophomore Kevin Puryear, a major Divison I prospect, has been huge. But what separates South is its bench. Nick Buccero, Kris Butts and Kendall Blanton are starters for just about any other program. Instead, they're reserves for a team gunning for a state championship.
    That said, South won't have it easy in Class 5 District 14. Before Tuesday's 55-45 loss to Liberty, Blue Springs was playing its best ball of the season and gave the Jags all they could handle and led in the fourth quarter two weeks ago in a 74-65 defeat. The Wildcats (14-10) will meet Lee's Summit North – another potential threat – in the first round.
    • A lot of people are talking about how great a Truman-Blue Springs girls state quarterfinal matchup would be, and rightfully so, but a Blue Springs South-Fort Osage boys quarterfinal meeting would also be fascinating from a stylistic standpoint. I'm not sure how Fort's brute force, with big men D'Vante Mosby, Austin Regier and Zach Adams, would handle South's speed and finesse.
    Page 2 of 2 - • I'm not looking forward to casting a vote for the Player of the Year on the girls side. Between Blue Springs' Lizzy Wendell and Karyla Middlebrook, Truman's Ashley Guenther and Becca Jonas and William Chrisman's Nieka Wheeler, there's a bevy of worthy candidates.
    As mentioned, a Truman-Blue Springs quarterfinal showdown is already being hyped. Both will enter districts as heavy favorites. The Class 5 No. 4-ranked Wildcats (24-2) bested district opponents by an average of 14.7 points during the regular season. The top-ranked Patriots (23-0) could potentially have a tough time with Kearney (22-2) in the finals.
    • Finally, a tip of the cap to the St. Mary's boys basketball team for going down swinging in the final basketball game before the school closes in May. The Trojans faced Class 2 No. 1-ranked West Platte (26-0) in Wednesday's Class 2 District 15 semifinals, and had the Blue Jays reeling for much of the night. St. Mary's built a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter before West Platte regrouped for a 62-57 win.
    A tough way for the program to finish, but a great effort nonetheless.
    Shawn Garrison is assistant sports editor for The Examiner. Reach him at shawn.garrison@examiner.net or 816-350-6319.

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