Preps notebook: Top area girls basketball standouts from December
Just one month into the season, the area girls basketball scene has already featured a number of strong performances at both the team and individual level.
Baldwin, which placed third in Class 4A last year, has a perfect 4-0 record and a shiny No. 3 ranking entering the 2020 portion of its schedule. Eudora is off to a 4-1 start, which included a third-place finish in its midseason tournament. The Cardinals, who are ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, are the only other ranked squad in the area.
Yet there have still been plenty of successful moments within the rest of the area scene, particularly by certain individuals. With that, let’s take a look at the top standout performances following the opening month of the 2019-20 season:
Shannon Clarke, Free State
The 6-foot left-handed wing has wasted no time proving why she’s getting attention from Division I programs. Clarke has scored in double figures in all five games during Free State’s 2-3 start to the season in Nick Wood’s first year at the helm. Clarke, who averaged 12.9 points per contest last year, has improved her scoring average to 16.2 points per outing thus far.
Clarke has dropped 20 points on two different occasions, both of which took place during the Lady Hawks Classic when the Firebirds placed seventh. Clarke has routinely beat defenders off the dribble, and she has shown improved range during her junior campaign. She remains a force on the defensive end as well.
Ozi Ajekwu, Lawrence High
Gone is Chisom Ajekwu, who is now playing at the collegiate level for the University of Kansas. But Ozi Ajekwu has stepped right in during her sister’s absence, dominating the paint on both ends of the court with her length. To begin her junior season, Ajekwu swatted a number of shots away in a loss to Topeka High, the No. 1 team in Class 6A.
Ajekwu has continued to serve as a rim protector for the Lions, who are 3-2 after the first month of the season. Ajekwu has also provided plenty of scoring, even though she gets a majority of her production in traffic. Ajekwu has scored in double figures in three different games, posting an average of 12.0 points per contest.
Harper Schreiner, Eudora
In the final game before the break, Schreiner had her best performance for the Cardinals. Schreiner scored 27 points in a win over Tonganoxie, which was a game featuring two area squads. Against THS, Schreiner netted six 3-pointers to finish with 15 more points than any other player in the game.
That performance was Schreiner’s second 20-point effort, as she began the year by scoring exactly 20 points in a win over Basehor-Linwood. Schreiner is now averaging 15.8 points per game during a 4-1 start by the Cardinals. It comes after she averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 assists per game as a starting freshman point guard a year ago.
Baldwin’s big three
The Bulldogs have a few players responsible for their 4-0 record out of the gate. Senior Josie Boyle, senior Anna Burnett and sophomore Riley Smith are all averaging double figures for BHS through four games. The collective showing has been especially impressive, considering Baldwin recently graduated a five-player senior class that went 83-9 in their respective careers.
Burnett and Boyle are the only two returning starters from a team that placed third at the state tournament last season. Burnett is averaging 13.0 points per game, while Boyle is posting a scoring average of 11.3 points per contest. Smith is scoring 10.3 points per outing, which includes an 18-point performance in the season opener.
Campbell Keller, Perry-Lecompton
Along with Clarke, Keller is one of two players to earn athlete of the week honors during the opening stretch of the winter sports season. Keller received her recognition after scoring 17 points in Perry-Lecompton’s 54-29 win over Hiawatha on Dec. 13. She followed that up by scoring 10 points in a 41-34 win at Jefferson West.
This start by Keller comes after she scored a total of 16 points during her freshman campaign last season. As a result, the Kaws are now 3-2 under first-year head coach Jami Hodge following the first month of the new campaign.