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Examiner
  • Shawn Garrison: William Jewell tourney watch guide

  • For area high school basketball fans, this is probably the best week of the year until district play starts up.

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  • For area high school basketball fans, this is probably the best week of the year until district play starts up.
    That’s because of the William Jewell Holiday Classic, which features three brackets that all include at least one Eastern Jackson County program.
    Here’s a rundown of what you should be watching for:
    n Grab a seat and stay all day to watch the teams in the Nelson Division battle it out. This bracket, which includes five district champions from a year ago, will also provide a real test for one of the area’s most intriguing teams, Blue Springs South.
    The Jaguars, who received the top seed in the field after a 7-0 start, have completely dominated this season. Of their seven victories, only one (a 67-63 win over Columbia Rock Bridge) was by less than 16 points.
    With speedy and experienced guards Justin Pitts and Carl Martin back plus the emergence of sophomore big man Kevin Puryear – a legit Division I prospect – I assumed South would have a solid year. But I expected the Jags to notice the departure of point guard and team leader D.J. Booker – last year’s Examiner Player of the Year – and Wes Poke – who provided a steady scoring and rebounding presence inside – more than they have.
    If the Jags can come out on top in the tournament, it’s time to rethink what their ceiling is.
    n I’m interested to see how Truman fares in the Patterson Division. The third-seeded Patriots open against Kearney – a team they downed 67-42 on Dec. 14 – and would likely face a very good Liberty team in round 2 if they get past the Bulldogs.
    There’s something I love about watching this Truman team. I don’t think they have near the talent of a season ago when varsity stalwarts Antonio Winn and Zach Large led the charge. But I think the Patriots play about as hard as any group I’ve seen so far.
    There’s no obvious go-to scorer, but senior point guard Lane Titus controls the offense and his freshman brother Reid Titus provides a valuable scoring spark off the bench while big men Scott Agee and Zach Huber never shy away from doing the dirty work inside. Combine those four with guards Tom Ruddy, Dewayne Thornton and Michael Hernandez, and Truman has a scrappy team that finds a way to play competitive basketball.
    n I’m not sure any team has more to gain this week than Blue Springs. The Wildcats, who earned the third seed in the Cardinal Division and open against Lincoln Prep, have no shortage of talent. Senior Jay Corwin is one of the best shooters in the city – and possibly state – and guards Justin Pruitt and Walter Sorrells have also added some scoring punch.
    Page 2 of 2 - Although the Cats lost Division I talent Marvin Clark in the offseason – Clark transferred to a prep school in Wichita – the addition of Elijah Lee and emergence of 6-foot-5 junior Cody Isabel has offset that loss.
    And yet, Blue Springs (4-3) has been frustratingly inconsistent. Turnovers have plagued the Cats so far and they’ve allowed 80.3 points in their three losses.
    Coaches often talk of dividing the season into segments with holiday tournaments and Christmas break being the opportune time to address glaring weaknesses. You can bet first-year coach Adam Jones will be working to do just that over the next few days.
    n Shifting gears to the girls hoops scene, I’ve been impressed with the way Blue Springs has started the season for coach Mark Spigarelli.
    Offensively, the Wildcats clearly are still looking for secondary scorers to support Karyla Middlebrook and Lizzy Wendell. But in the meantime, Blue Springs has picked up its defense, holding teams to 31 points or less five times in a 7-1 start.
    n Although the Wildcats have been the undisputed best girls squad in EJC the last several years, I think Truman has a real shot at making it to a final four this year. I was stunned in the preseason when the Patriots didn’t even register votes in the state coaches poll. They’ve since cracked the top 10, coming in at No. 4 in week 3.
    There’s not really a weak link for the Pats (10-0). You’d be hard-pressed to find a better post tandem than Becca Jonas and Ashley Guenther. Abby Hix is a solid ball-handler and great 3-point shooter and Brooke Parton, Sandra Chiles and Darci Kern are perfect glue players that help keep things rolling.
    I’d love to see a Truman-Blue Springs postseason showdown come February.  
     
     
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