Please bare with me as I am busy with other activities besides this lovely little blog. I have a lot to say, but not about everything at once so I hope to fit in as much as I can in the following days for the sectionals and districts... On we go.
Class 3 Sectionals
Whitfield (19-9) vs Park Hills Central (21-8)
March 1 [6:00 PM]
The Warriors treated their district like a nice stroll in the rose garden if the roses had insulted each of their family members. Yes, they took it to their opponents and won the Valley Park District by beating Bayless (75-34) Principia (62-23) and Hancock in the championship game (76-47). In that championship game, Torrence Watson scored three fewer points than Hancock, which illustrates that he showed up to play in the biggest game of the season. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Watson is the best player in the state for Class 3 which may not sound that surprising because of Rivals rates him at the 93rd best junior in the country and he would walk into any team’s starting lineup in the state. A more reasonable case is that he’s been arguably the most productive player in the St. Louis area. He averages 27.1 points per game (4th) and has scored 651 points, which is third in the area but will most likely become No. 2 as he needs ten to pass Kyle Smith from Marissa. If you want some more proof than take a peek here.
As documented before the Warriors have others that are more than capable of carrying some of the load if Dr. Watson isn’t up to his usual tricks. Forward Luther Taylor is prone to giving opposing defenders fits in the paint and out top when he dribbles by them. You’ll be hardpressed to find someone better in Class 3 that can snag rebound and go coast-to-coast. He also has a case to be labeled as one of the sophomores in Missouri for Class 3. Another young forward to watch is Cyrus Alexander who is a tough one to get by on defense and is a good offensive rebounder. Amechi Ramsey will overwhelm players with his quickness and explosiveness off the dribble. The quick, little point guard started the season off slowly, but has had a good second half and will be vital for the Warriors if they want to make it to Columbia.
The road will start with Park Hills Central, a rematch of last years game at Jefferson College in Hillsboro. The two teams do a have a common opponent, and that is Francis Howell Central. The Warriors beat FHC in the first round of the MICDS Holiday Tournament 64-52, and Central lost to them 63-57. There’s not a big difference there, especially given the fact both teams played FHC over two months ago. Whitfield won last year’s encounter 63-48, and Central knows what Watson can do to them as he scored 18 points and the game was all but over at 37-13 at halftime. Wade Scherffius is the Rebels main man. Here’s his Hudl. The 6’0” point guard is quick and smooth as they can come and he will be causing the Warrior's problems. He scored 26 points in the district final against West County. He can fill it up by beating defenders off the dribble and attacking the basket or knock down three’s all day long.
I still like Whitfield a lot in this one. They’re taller, more athletic and on a roll. I would think their big weakness is their age because they only have one senior out of the nine productive players they regularly play, which says a lot for the next season but that can wait. You also have to compare each team’s schedule and it’s pretty clear Whitfield has the advantage there too. Coach Mike Potsou’s record in sectional games is 3-1 with the lone loss coming against Madison Prep in 2014, but 3-0 against non-area schools and has done quite well against them. All the victories have come in double-figures.
Class 5 Districts
For my money, this is the strongest district in the area and maybe Missouri, which is what many of us were thinking until the last three weeks. To me now it’s a lot more straightforward. It’s safe to assume Chaminade and SLUH were favorites to duke it out in the finals at the beginning of the season. Then Ladue and Ritenour made a strong impression.
The Rams won the MICDS Tournament, and their record peaked at 14-4. Since then they’ve lost five out of their last seven, including an 18-point loss to De Smet, a team both Chaminade and SLUH have handled twice. I’m not bashing Ladue, but it doesn’t look good when they’re coming off an 18-point loss to a team which was defeated by 30 two times to Chaminade. The ole’ ipso-facto. Let’s also remember that this is the first time Frank Bennett had faced Ladue since that fateful night at Danis Field House in 2014 when the Rams shocked the world by ending his promising rookie season as a coach. The only player that remembers that game was Reggie Crawford, who played a key role in that game despite being a freshman. Three years later he and Bennett get one last shot at Ladue at the same location. It that doesn’t provide any motivation then I don’t know what will. Based on that and recent form it’s easy to pick Chaminade in the semifinals, but if Ladue can somehow play to their potential and Chaminade doesn’t then this will be a splendid, competitive game. At their best they are a fun, fast-paced to team to watch and tough to defend with Zach Bush running point and Tate Hotz and River Rhoads splashing three’s. The Rams do matchup with Chaminade well size wise. Ladue will give Chaminade problems if they play fast, but stay patient on defense.
The Huskies best results are losses believe it or not. It sounds strange but if you ask what people know about them is that they almost beat Webster Groves and CBC (two points decided both games). To be fair, they have two respectable, notable victories over Francis Howell, Northwest Academy, Kirkwood and McCluer North. The highpoint of their season was at 16-5, but like Ladue, they’ve gone into a bit of stumble. Ritenour came into the tournament having lost three of their last four against decent competition with the likes of McCluer, Pattonville, Lindbergh and Kirkwood. However, they took two 23-point losses to Pattonville and McCluer and seemed to fall apart against Lindbergh in the fourth quarter. Over the weekend they beat Hazelwood East 77-71 to earn a semifinal date with SLUH.
The Jr. Bills have it all lined up to make the 2016-2017 season to potentially be their most memorable basketball season in the long history of SLUH basketball. 20-win season. Metro Catholic Conference champions for the first year ever. Hosts of their district. Seven extremely experienced seniors that know how to win in the playoffs from years past with the likes of Brandon McKissic, Brent Smith, B.J. Wilson and Anthony Hughes among others will guide the Jr. Bills. There are spark plugs like Davion Nash a.k.a. “Simba” and a pair of juniors, sharpshooter Matt Leritz and A.J. Hardin.
Yes, I think it will come down to an MCC showdown with SLUH meeting the old enemy Chaminade. Jericole Hellems and Karrington Davis have been the two big boys this season, but that’s not implying they’re the only two weapons. Chaminade might be the most loaded team in the state with a bench that goes 10-12 deep on a nightly basis with all the height they need. The Jesuits will love to exercise Red Devils on their home court in the finals, but it will be a good game either way. Chaminade took care of SLUH earlier in the season, but most recently the Jr. Bills edged the nade, and that shouts advantage SLUH.
I’m picking SLUH to advance out. Like I mentioned it’s all there for them and lest we forget about the last two seasons when they’ve made it out of districts against Webster Groves. Coach Claggett and co know how to come up big in the clutch, and he’s been training these seniors for the past three years for this week.