Led by sharpshooter Trey Bales, the Olathe Northwest boys’ basketball team is a scrappy bunch – long on hard-nosed play and defensive intensity, but short on size inside and athleticism.
“Obviously, we do give up a little size, but our guys are pretty tough,” Ravens coach Mike Grove said. “Of our three losses, two games were by three points and we lost another game by two. We’ve been in a lot of close games.”
Grove hopes that experience will serve Olathe Northwest well during Valley Center’s January Jam, which starts Thursday and continues through Saturday.
“The biggest thing about the midseason tournament is that you get away to play some people that you haven’t (played) before,” Grove said. “Team bonding is a big deal, and it gives you a chance to do some things you wouldn’t normally get to do with them. That’s how I use it.”
The Ravens open tourney play against Topeka Seaman. Next would be Garden City or Junction City with unbeaten and top-ranked Blue Valley Northwest potentially lurking on the other half of the bracket.
“Our biggest goal is to get better each and every day and each and every game,” Grove said. “We need to grow and gain experience in every game we play, but any good team and any good coach, your goal is to play for a championship.”
Tests await undefeated squads
SM East, which needed a Vance Wentz basket with 3.9 seconds left to top SM West last Friday, drew the top seed at the 49th annual McPherson Invitational. Facing Maize in the opening round shouldn’t be too tough for the Lancers, but possible matchups against BV West in the semifinals and the host Bullpups or Wichita Heights down the road promise a tough few days.
SM South, which is ranked No. 1 in Kansas 5A, opens against Wichita South on Thursday in the Tournament of Champions Tournament in Dodge City and could face the host Red Demons in the second round Friday and perhaps Wichita North – and its Kansas-bound star guard Conner Frankamp – in the final Saturday.
Other midseason action
For Shawnee Mission Northwest, there will be no first-round respite at St. Thomas Aquinas’ Saints Classic. The Cougars open against Grandview and will face either Bishop Miege or Washburn Rural in the semifinals or consolation semifinals, depending on how it fares against the Bulldogs.
At Shawnee Mission West’s Viking Classic, assuming the seeds hold, the semifinals matchups promise intrigue with Blue Valley North potentially facing a rough-and-tumble, battle-tested Blue Springs South squad and the host Vikings likely to meet perennial Missouri powerhouse Rockhurst.
Hoping to bounce back from consecutive losses against Leavenworth and Lawrence, Olathe South opens the Topeka Invitational against winless Topeka West, which serves as host. A possible rematch with Lawrence likely awaits in the semifinals with Kansas City, Kan., power Washington or unbeaten Highland Park beyond that.
Playing in Liberty, Olathe East hopes to keep up its strong history at the C.W. Stessman Invitational, which has switched to a Thursday through Saturday format. The Hawks, who have shown vulnerability of late, open against Center and likely will face Liberty North or St. Joseph Central in the second round. Host Liberty High also lurks in the bracket.
Playing at the Ralph Miller Classic in Chanute, Olathe North has a chance to reset its season. The Eagles, 1-7, open against traditional Kansas 4A power Andover Central, but they are also in a field that includes struggling Goddard and Shawnee Heights, providing opportunity to notch confidence-building wins.
Finally, winless Shawnee Mission North lost its opening-round game Monday against Park Hill South at the North Kansas City Tournament and now will try to rebound for fifth place.
Sunflower girls tumble at tourneys
Monday was a dark day of sorts for the Sunflower League girls as all three teams playing midseason tournaments this week crashed out in the first round. Now, Shawnee Mission Northwest, Olathe East and Shawnee Mission West will be vying for fifth place at best.
The Cougars won the Truman Tournament last season, but Lee’s Summit North blasted one of three remaining teams unbeaten in league play 67-50 in this season’s tourney opener. Similarly, the Hawks dropped a four-point decision to Staley, and the Vikings took a 53-44 tumble against perennial Missouri power Blue Springs in the opening round at the Blue Valley North KA-MO Classic.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.