The boys at Cardinal Ritter College Prep and girls at Whitfield School will be playing for state titles this weekend at the Missouri State High School Activities Class 3 Basketball Championships in Springfield.
Cardinal Ritter will be trying to win its sixth state championship while Whitfield is attempting to win its first this weekend at the JQH Arena, on the campus of Missouri State University.
Cardinal Ritter (23-6) will take on Mid-Missouri power Blair Oaks (28-2) in the state semifinals on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. The winner of that game will face the Charleston-Monroe City winner for the state championship at 8:10 p.m. The losing teams will play for third place on Friday at 11 a.m.
The Lions have a big and athletic team will excellent balance, led by 6’3’ junior guard Mario Fleming, who is averaging 19 points a game. Up front, the Lions feature 6’7” senior Garry Clark, 6’6” Brandon Ellington and 6’8” junior Josh Robinson. Clark is averaging 14 points and eight rebounds a game while Ellington is averaging eight points, six rebounds and two blocks. Ellington blocked 11 shots in the Lions’ victory over Christian-O’Fallon in the state quarterfinals last Saturday.
Ritter’s backcourt is led by 6’1” sophomore Luther Burden, an outstanding football prospect who is averaging nearly 11 points a game. Senior guard Glenn Valentine averages seven points a game while junior Ilyaas Harris brings added depth and talent to the backcourt.
In Blair Oaks, the Lions will be facing the No. 1 team in the state in the semifinals. The Falcons are led by the brother duo of 6’9” senior Eric Northweather and 6’9” sophomore Luke Northweather. The other semifinal game features a Charleston program that has been a state power for decades. The Southeast Missouri school has won 11 state championships in its history.
Whitfield’s quest for a first ever state championship will have a big roadblock in its path in the form of four-time defending state champion Strafford. Although the Southwest Missouri school has a new coach and several new players, they are back in the mix for another state championship run.
Whitfield is bringing a young and talented team to Springfield for its third Final Four trip in the last four years. The Warriors are led by 5’9” junior point guard Kelsey Blakemore, who is averaging 14.5 points a game. Senior guard Jade Moore is averaging 11.9 points while knocking down 3-pointers from long distance. Senior Zaria Daniels is a 5’10” forward who averages 6.6 points a game.
A big part of Whitfield’s success has been the presence of a trio of talented freshmen in the fold. Forward Brooklyn Rhodes is a talented 6-footer who averages 10 points and 10 rebounds a game while 5’9” guard Tkiyah Nelson averages 7.4 points while providing ball handling and passing. The third freshman in the mix is 5’9” guard Treazure Jackson.
The Whitfield-Strafford semifinal game will tip off on Friday at 12:50 p.m. The winner of that game will face either Licking or Macon for the state championship on Saturday at 2:40 p.m. The two losing teams will meet in the third-place game on Saturday at 12:50 p.m.