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Examiner
  • Blue Springs senior Middlebrook hoping to get back at Rock Bridge buddies

  • Karyla Middlebrook, the smooth-as-silk senior point guard for the 28-2 Blue Springs High School girls basketball team, is looking for some bragging rights.

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  • Karyla Middlebrook, the smooth-as-silk senior point guard for the 28-2 Blue Springs High School girls basketball team, is looking for some bragging rights.
    Oh, she already has them in the metro area. The Wildcats have won 21 games in a row and have not lost to a metro area team on either side of the state.
    No, the bragging rights she hopes to claim can be found Friday in Columbia, the site of the Wildcats' 8:20 p.m., Class 5 state semifinal game at Mizzou Arena against second-ranked Columbia Rock Bridge.
    “I play on a pretty good AAU team in the summer,” said Middlebrook, who has signed to play basketball at Texas Tech University next fall, “and most of my teammates play for Rock Bridge.
    “Any time they could flash their state championship ring last summer, they did it – right in front of me. We need to get a win Friday night so we can win a championship on Saturday and I can flash my ring at them.”
    She was laughing as she talked about the “rivalry” among her AAU teammates, but there was more than a touch of truth to her comments.
    The fourth-ranked Wildcats have been to state a big-class girls record five years in a row, and the past four years they came home with a second-place trophy.
    Last year, Rock Bridge won the Class 5 title by topping Blue Springs 52-41, and Middlebrook is hoping for a different end to her senior season.
    “When my family moved to Blue Springs from Lee's Summit before my freshman year, the team went to state and I couldn't play because I had transferred and had to sit out a year,” she said.
    “I practiced with the team, and got to go to state, but I couldn't play, and it just killed me. I was sitting on the bench thinking that they're at state and this might be the only time I get to experience something like this. I was happy for the team, but really sad I couldn't play.”
    Now, three years later, she has been a factor in the Wildcats’ last two state appearances and will no doubt play a huge role Friday.
    “Karyla is a special player,” said Wildcats coach Mark Spigarelli, the lone common denominator among all five state-bound teams. “She is a great floor leader. She is so intense out there – like having a coach on the floor.
    “And that's what you want from your point guard. She makes sure everyone is in the right place and she can take the big shot, and we have a lot of confidence in her taking that shot, or she can find the open player.
    “It's been a lot of fun watching her and the other seniors develop and grow as players over the past four years. Texas Tech is getting quite a player.”
    Page 2 of 2 - And when this weekend is over, Middlebrook will start thinking about her Big 12 basketball career. But right now, all she's thinking about is her last hurrah with the Wildcats.
    “Four years? How can it already be four years?” she asked, shaking her head. “I remember being that freshman, wanting to play so badly, and having to sit out. And now, we're playing our last games together.
    “People tell you all the time to enjoy everything when you're in high school, because it all goes by so fast. And they're right. This season went so fast and the last four years are like here and gone.”
    Because she knew she was going to Texas Tech, Middlebrook didn't have to deal with recruiting headaches that often accompany a senior season.
    “But because I'm going to play Big 12 basketball, I think I faced even more pressure,” she said. “I had to go out and perform like a Big 12 player every night.”
    Middlebrook averages 12 points and leads the Cats with 4.3 assists per game.
    “Karyla is a great player and one of my best friends,” said senior forward Lizzy Wendell, who plans to play basketball at Drake next year. “I can't believe our last games are this weekend. We're all excited about the future, but we have to try to find a way to win a state championship this year.
    “It's all the seniors – really, all of us – have been talking about all year.”
    And what would a state championship mean to Middlebrook?
    “You know the answer to that,” she said, grinning. “Bragging rights.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
     
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