One of my favorite times of year is here once again. The high school basketball playoffs are about to begin. Districts get underway Saturday, March 1st. Nothing beats the feel of a high school gym filled with passionate fans, and kids playing their hearts out, many of them knowing it could be the last game they ever play. Class 5 is loaded this year, particularly on the St. Louis side of the state. Although Columbia Hickman may well be considered the favorite to win the state title, most of the other contenders will play right here in St. Louis, Districts 1-8. I’ve had the pleasure of watching many of the top teams across the area this year, and am excited to share my thoughts in this district overview. Today I break down districts 1-4, 5-8 will be previewed Saturday morning!
-Teams are listed in order of seed
*Represent host team
District 1 – Jackson, Oakville, Poplar Bluff, Fox, *Seckman
I had the pleasure of watching Jackson play a very talent laden CBC team via the CBC Student Network (@CBCCSN), but the rest of this district has eluded my eyes this year. Common sense would tell me that Jackson will meet Oakville for the district title. While I came away impressed with how Jackson competed at CBC, Oakville (18-7) is dangerous. Led by 6’10 SLU commit Austin Gillman (17 points, 10 rebounds, 3.6 blocks per game). When it comes down to it, great players win big games and Oakville will lean on Gillman to take them into the sectional round.
District 2 – *Lafayette, Parkway South, Marquette, Eureka, Summit
In my opinion Lafayette should run away with this district. Coach Scott Allen has the Lancers playing at a very high level (21-4) with quality wins over the likes of Webster Groves and Hazelwood Central. Senior sharpshooter Nate Messer is the team’s leading scorer (14 ppg, 47% 3pt), while point guard Adam Witzig has done a nice job running the show. Football standout Evan Scales and his brother Cameron provide much needed athleticism to this Lancer squad.
However besides Summit (6-19), who graduated nearly their entire team from 2013, every team has a shot. Mason Bendigo of Eureka (8-17) scored 51 against Northwest last week, any performance like that would bring Eureka a district title. Brooks Gerrity of Marquette (11-12) is a dynamic shooter, and in a game against longtime rival Lafayette, you never know what could happen. Lastly, Jeremy Verges of Parkway South (14-9) can really score, pouring in almost 20/game this year. No matter though, Lafayette has beaten every team in this district this year, and barring an off night should walk away with the trophy.
Players to Watch: Jeremy Verges (P South), Brooks Gerrity (Marquette), Mason Bendigo (Eureka)
District 3 – CBC, Parkway Central, Parkway West, Pattonville, DeSmet, *Parkway North
Under new coach Justin Tatum, CBC (19-7) is battle tested and primed for a deep run into the state tournament. Frankly, if CBC plays the way they are capable, no one in district 3 has much of a chance. Jordan Barnett (Texas signee, 20 ppg) is one of the best talents in the area. Ranked 85th in the country on ESPN’s 2014 100, Barnett is complimented by sophomore guards Jordan Barnes (14 points, 4.6 ast per game) and Christian Willis (10 ppg). Having played nationally ranked opponents from all over the country, the Cadets are more than prepared for the big time.
Parkway Central’s (16-9) Nathan Biggs (15 ppg) and Jarrett Cox-Bradley (16 ppg) are the biggest threat to CBC. Parkway West (15-10) could also pose a threat given the talent of guard Jake Socha (17 ppg). Developing freshmen Wyatt Yess has also been impressive for the Longhorns (12 points, 7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks per game). At the end of the day, no team has the talent or the athleticism to play with CBC for a full 32 minutes. The Cadets should ease through this one.
Players to Watch: Jordan Barnett (CBC), Nathan Biggs (P Central), Jake Socha (P West)
District 4 – Webster Groves, *Kirkwood, Vianney, Mehlville, Lindbergh
Another district made more interesting by a long standing rivalry. Kirkwood (18-7) and Webster Groves (21-4) both pose legitimate threats to not only win the district, but make a run deep into March. The Griffins of Vianney (14-10) are young, and talented, but I believe they are a year away from a sectional birth. Mehlville (10-14 and Lindbergh (9-15) would both require a miracle to make it through district 4.
That leaves Webster and Kirkwood, two very defensive minded teams. Jay Blossom brings an intensity to Webster on the defensive end year in and year out that no other program can seem to match. On the other hand, Kirkwood is loaded with athletes this year that can really defend especially against inferior guard play. When the two teams met back on January 24th, the Statesmen of Webster escaped with a two point victory. In my opinion these teams are as evenly matched on both ends of the floor as they come. Kirkwood does have the home court advantage, but the postseason experience of Jay Blossom gives Webster the slight edge.
Winner: Webster Groves
Players to Watch: Alex Floresca (Webster), Evan Booker (Kirkwood), Tanner Cochran (Vianney)
It should be fun to see how these districts pan out, Be sure to check GSC tomorrow for the district 5-8 preview! As always thanks for reading and give me a follow on twitter @GSC_AJ
It’s not crazy, it’s sports