It’s that time of year again!
Christmas is over and it’s Dec. 26. That means that the William Jewell Holiday Classic tournament is here – one which features some of the best teams in the Kansas City area.
As always there will be three separate brackets, the Cardinal, Nelson and Patterson Divisions. This year, there will only three Eastern Jackson County teams participating as Truman and William Chrisman won’t be in it like they had been in recent years. Let’s take a look at how the three local teams stack up against their competition:
FORT OSAGE: Head coach Josh Wilson has to be thrilled with the way his team has started the season. The Indians are 5-2 and will be the No. 2 seed in the Nelson bracket. Wilson has instilled a defensive-minded approach in his team and it’s paid dividends so far. The Indians have already won half as many games as they had in the past two seasons combined.
Fort Osage has been led by 6-foot-6 forward Xavier Kahube, who is a force in the post and also crashes the boards with the best of them. Tristan Turner, a 6-foot-4 forward, does all the little things for the team and has been a force on the glass. Forward Ty Baker is a quick forward to is good at getting to the rim on the dribble drive, and swingman Jared Larson has been Fort Osage's sharpshooter, hitting threes with consistency and has been getting open when one of the forwards or driving guards are double teamed.
The Indians are looking good heading into their first-round game against Winnetonka (3-5), but if they get past the first round, it gets a lot tougher. They could play No. 3 seed Raymore-Peculiar in the semifinals, a team that plays in the always tough Suburban Big Six Conference and is 5-2 on the season. On the other side of the bracket, the other seeded teams are Staley (No. 4) and Grandview (No.1). The Bulldogs are the favorite in this bracket as they are the defending Class 4 state champions, ranked No. 1 in the state and are 7-1. They also have the size down low to match up with Turner and Kahube.
The Falcons are sitting at 3-3 and are usually a splid team. This bracket will be a tough one for the Indians to get through, but if they can play tough, fundamental defense, they have a chance.
BLUE SPRINGS: This is a rebuilding year for the Wildcats as 80 percent of their offense graduated from last year’s team in RJ Lawrence and Daniel Parker Jr.
They go into the Nelson Division unseeded as the Wildcats will take on Staley. This bracket will be even tougher for Blue Springs to get through as it is off to a 2-6 start. In recent years, head coach Adam Jones had been blessed with talented shooters and scorers like Parker, Lawrence, Tyree King, Taysean Goodwin and Kirk Finley.
This season, Jones said scoring has to be a team effort as the Wildcats don’t have that one player who can drop 20 points on any given night. If the Wildcats get past the Falcons, they might have to take on Grandview in the semifinals. That’s not an ideal situation for any team, let alone one that’s struggling.
BLUE SPRINGS SOUTH: Last but not least, the Jaguars will be the No. 2 seed in the Patterson Division. In their first year under head coach Josh Smith, Blue Springs South hasn’t missed a beat.
The Jaguars are 4-3 on the season and all three of their losses have come against quality teams like Jennings (3-1), Rockhurst (9-0, ranked fourth in the state) and Park Hill South (3-1, ranked third in the state). They will take on a 4-5 Hogan Prep team in the first round, a team that won the Class 3 state tournament last season. While the Rams may not be the same team they were last year, they should provide the Jaguars an early test.
If the Jaguars can get past Hogan Prep, they could take on Liberty (3-4) in the semifinals, a team that made the Class 5 state final four last season. On the other side of the bracket, Raytown sits as the No. 4 seed and Park Hill South is the top seed. The Panthers already defeated the Jaguars 86-58 earlier in the season, but if they meet in the final, I expect that game to be more competitive. The Jaguars edged Raytown 64-62 in a game on Dec. 14, so this bracket will be a tough one to win. Blue Springs South is led by 6-foot-6 forward Jaylon McDaniel, who is rated a four-star recruit by future150.com. He is an electric player who has had many highlight-reel dunks through seven games. The Jaguars also have solid guards who can score like Caleb Israelite and Khayden Hooks. While winning the Patterson Division won’t be easy, the Jaguars are a team equipped to at least make the championship.
The Holiday Classic should be a fun one. It’s worth checking out if you are a high school basketball fan. And this fan can’t wait for it to start.