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Cardinal Ritter vs. Incarnate Word basketball

Aijha Blackwell, who sat on the Cardinal Ritter bench during a game against Incarnate Word on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at Ritter, smiles as she heads to the locker room at halftime with Ritter leading. Paul Kopsky, STLhighschoolsports.com

For the second consecutive game Tuesday, senior Aijha Blackwell sat on the Cardinal Ritter girls basketball team's bench in street clothes.

Blackwell, a University of Missouri women's basketball signee who enrolled last week at Cardinal Ritter, watched Tuesday as the Lions dropped a 52-43 decision at home to Incarnate Word.

When asked if her goal was to attempt to gain eligibility to play this semester at Cardinal Ritter after transferring from Whitfield, Blackwell was blunt.

“Yeah,” Blackwell said. “I would. I just don't really know what's going to happen.”

Cardinal Ritter girls basketball coach Tony Condra confirmed the school has sent a transfer request to the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

Condra said he wasn't sure how long the process would take, or if it would have a positive outcome for the Lions.

“You know, everything falls on MSHSAA,” Condra said. “I mean, of course, we would (love for Blackwell to join the team), but everything falls on MSHSAA.”

Blackwell was a first-team All-Metro selection as a junior after she led the area in scoring at 24.2 points per game as Whitfield finished 23-7 and finished third in Class 3.

For now, though, when it comes to basketball all she can do is wait.

“I'm just sitting here right now,” Blackwell said. “It's a little tough because I'm sitting down and watching everyone play the sport that I love. I'm the only one out and it gets tough. You've got to just stay positive, for the most part.”

MSHSAA communications director Jason West communicated via email Wednesday that the association had received a transfer eligibility request from Cardinal Ritter regarding Blackwell.

While no timetable was given for a resolution, West said he felt Blackwell's receiving money from USA Basketball for her participation with the Under-18 national team last summer wasn't applicable in Blackwell's case as a reason for disqualification of eligibility.

Maori Davenport, who played with Blackwell on the U.S. Under-18 team, was declared ineligible by the Alabama State Activities Association for what was termed the reception of improper financial compensation to an amateur athlete before a court injunction allowed her to return to the court last week.

"While MSHSAA does have language similar to the AHSAA’s 'Amateur Rule,' the language in the MSHSAA handbook does allow for a different outcome than the Alabama language," West communicated via email.

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