After four days of high school basketball at the American Family Insurance Holiday Classic at William Jewell College, here are five notable facts to take away from the event:
1. The path to the Class 5 state tournament still runs through LS West
A year after losing its leading scorer, Shaquille Harrison, Lee’s Summit West sent a message during the American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic that it remains the team to beat in Kansas City to reach the Class 5 state tournament. The Titans lack the go-to scoring option that Harrison provided, but they are a balanced team that can survive an off-night from one of its star players, a group that includes Monte Harrison, Trevor Gregory and Kyndall Powell. They were tough defensively, and they out-fought previously-unbeaten Blue Springs South in a 66-57 win in the Nelson Division championship.
2. Liberty’s Kellan Turner is clutch
In a 61-59 overtime victory against Truman, Liberty guard Kellan Turner provided the tournament’s top highlight — a floater from the free-throw line that gave the Blue Jays the win with four seconds remaining. Turner finished the game 10 of 14 for 25 points and 10 rebounds. The Blue Jays eventually lost the championship of the Patterson Division to Rockhurst, but they kept the game close throughout and proved their 9-2 start is no fluke.
3. St. Pius X senior Brian Kaufmann thrives when the game is on the line
The best individual performance came from St. Pius X senior Brian Kaufmann, who made four consecutive three-point shots to erase Harrisonville’s six-point lead in the opening round and give the Warriors a 63-60 win. He scored 32 points. His four three-pointers came on four straight possessions in the final two-and-a-half minutes. Earlier this year, Kaufmann buried a half-court shot at the buzzer to defeat St. Joseph Central.
4. Little known? Not anymore
Prior to the Holiday Basketball Classic, few knew of Lincoln Prep forward Charles Harris. Those who saw him play last week will remember his name. In three games — though Lincoln Prep lost two of them — Harris averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds while physically dominating play in the paint. His most impressive performance came in a tournament-opening loss to Blue Springs. He scored 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, leading Blue Springs coach Adam Jones to call him one of the tournament’s most difficult players to defend.
5. Poised to repeat
A year after finishing third in the Class 4 state tournament, Liberty North appears ready to make another trip. What makes the Eagles particularly dangerous is their ability to rely on a different player every night. Sharp-shooting Jake Hanson was the star in a semifinal win before Brinkley Jolly took over in the Cardinal Division championship against Park Hill South. After an 0-2 start, Liberty North has won eight of nine to move to 8-3.