BY TAYLOR ELDRIDGE
(Follow me on Twitter. Because this guy told you so.)
Pre-gaming — It’s exactly 11 a.m. right now and that means we are exactly four hours away from the tip-off of the first Class 3A semi-final. How do I know it’s 11 a.m. right now? Because I scheduled it to automatically exist at 11 a.m. and not a second later. Boo ya.
I’ll be updating this blog frequently throughout the day, so make this your one stop for all Class 3A basketball information. I can promise you pictures. Who else does that? It’s because I love you guys.
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Here’s the schedule: #2 Jefferson County North (23-1) vs. #6 Marion girls (19-5), 3 p.m.; #7 Kansas City Christian (18-6) vs. #6 Minneapolis boys (20-4), 4:45 p.m.; #1 Thomas More Prep (23-1) vs. #4 Garden Plain girls (19-5), 6:30 p.m.; #1 Collegiate (23-1) vs. #4 Rossville boys (20-4), 8:15 p.m.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
3 PM: Team TGU (The Great Unknown) vs. The Macho Man’s
I have to say, after ragging on Jefferson County North for not playing a single team that advanced to its respective sub-state final the entire season (hence, The Great Unknown), I was quite impressed with Team TGU. Yes, Frontenac was virtually a one-person team (Respect The Barto), but Team TGU put them away soundly in the second half. Their best player is 5-foot-9 sophomore Jordan Kramer, who can handle the ball, but is best weaving through waves of screens and finding an open shot. The supporting cast is average I would say. Marion, on the other hand, has played 13 teams that made it to their sub-state finals, so it is the anti-TGU pretty much. The Warriors have two very heady players in Julia Zeiner, a 5-foot-11 senior, and Lindsay Hett, a 5-foot-8 senior. I would say the supporting casts are similar, but I really like the way Zeiner and Hett team up. If Team TGU doesn’t have the luck of the Irish today, expect The Macho Man’s, coached by Randy Savage, to snap into a Slim Jim and win. The Pick: Marion by 7
4:45 PM: The Fighting Buzz Lightyear’s vs. The Hoosiers
March Madness is right around the corner, so everyone is getting in the mood. Who doesn’t like a good Cinderella story? If you are like 5 out of 5 Americans, than you will be pulling for Kansas City Christian, the team with no expectations going into the season and now find themselves in Class 3A’s final four teams left standing. A kid in their student section dressed up as Buzz Lightyear last game and it propelled them to victory. We’ll see if they can blast off into infinity and beyond today. If they do, lift off will be ignited by 6-foot-8 senior Blake Spencer. They don’t have the star power of the other three teams left, but it has the mystique of a team of destiny. Meanwhile, Minneapolis won the battle to represent Indiana on Wednesday against Southwestern Heights. 6-foot-1 junior Grayson George is such a smooth player. I don’t know how KCC will match up with him, and Casy Arganbright and Keegan McCullick provide superior second and third options to KCK. The underdogs will make a game of it for longer than expected, but I think George takes over late. The Pick: Minneapolis by 11
6:30 PM: The Torn ACL’s vs. Team Elvis
Why do I call Thomas More Prep the Torn ACL’s? Maybe because their best player, Kaylee Hoffman, has one. Oh yeah, AND she’s playing on it. Yeah, somehow she got a doctor to sign off on her playing with a knee brace. Apparently, she can’t feel any pain at all. So she’s pretty much like Iron Man. She’s definitely not 100 percent, but she scored 14 points off the bench in the first round win. Outside of Hoffman, the Monarchs have a very solid team. Rachel Jacobs, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, is a star-in-the-making and Heather Ruder, a freshman, and Jessa Stramel, a senior, are good scoring options as well. Remember, The Torn ACL’s knocked off then-top-ranked Southwestern Heights without their poster girl. So they’re very capable. I really like this Garden Plain team, as well. As you can read here, the Owls have found their purpose and they are playing some inspired basketball right now. Ann Pauly is the closest they have to a star, but all five players on the court can score. Also, I like the Garden Plain student section, which apparently raided a police caution tape store and also a store that sells cardboard cut-outs of Elvis. This was the game I spent the longest time on before picking. The Pick: Thomas More Prep by 4
8:15 PM: Team Gum/The Dream Team vs. Gonzaga
I don’t know what to call this Collegiate team. For basketball fans, The Dream Team is the obvious nickname. I mean, this senior class is just crazy. Blake Jablonski, Bryce Cornejo, Ty Fiegel, Brett LeMaster and Tre Bailey make up perhaps the best senior class in the state of Kansas history. They’re that good. Team Gum, for those with limited knowledge of the inner-goings of Collegiate, is something this group just made up before the season. Gum is now the new word for cool. Why gum? Don’t ask me. Why should they have to explain it? All they do is win. Now, Rossville, which rips off its logo exactly from Gonzaga, gave the Spartans their toughest test last season. That was a battle in the semi-final’s last year and both teams return most of their teams this season. I expect to see the same kind of showdown. Mitch Buhler for Rossville is probably the best player in the tournament, so he can put the Dawgs on his back and carry them. How far? The Pick: Collegiate by 3