It's not every day a girls basketball player has to follow in the footsteps of a 6-foot-5 NCAA Division I recruit.
That is, however, exactly what Metro junior forward Faith Bland has had to do after last year's graduation of Brooke Flowers, who now is a freshman player for St. Louis University.
STLhighschoolSPORTS.com rankings - 1/7/2019 Large school rankingsLast Week1. Francis Howell Central (10-1)12. Edwardsville (17-2)33. McCluer N…
While Bland, who stands 5-9, may not measure up to Flowers in terms of height, she has been more than up to the task on the court.
Bland ranks among area scoring leaders with an average of 19.5 points per game for the Panthers (9-4).
“I have been putting in a lot of hard work and, I think, last year I was very passive,” Bland said. “My goal this year — I'm an upperclassman now — I wanted to be more aggressive. It was important for me to try and be a leader for my team.”
Bland has shown that leadership ability, Panthers coach Gary Glasscock said.
Averages of 11.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.2 steals and 3.2 blocks per game are good evidence as to the depth of Bland's game.
“Faith is doing everything, she is working so hard on both ends of the floor,” Glasscock said. “She's playing defense, blocking shots. She goes hard to the basket. She shoots the ball from the outside. She just plays a complete game for us right now. She plays hard and she wants the ball when the game is tight. She's getting the job done.”
HARRIS STEPS RIGHT IN FOR EDWARDSVILLE
Harris, a freshman, was a part of three consecutive middle school state championships for Liberty Middle School.
Now, the 6-foot Harris is living up to the hype as the Tigers' leading scorer. She's averaging 13.7 points per game for the Tigers (17-2, No. 2 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings).
“I know a lot of people expected me to come in (and perform) as I'm doing, I did put a lot on myself,” Harris said. “I knew with a lot of our upperclassmen leaving and moving on to college, there was going to be a big expectation for me to step up on this team.”
Harris has scored 16 points or more in a game eight times, including a career-high 36 in a win Dec. 6 against Belleville West.
The freshman said she knew the high school game would be a level above what she was used to playing, but because of that preparedness, she hasn't been caught off guard.
“I knew this would be a lot harder than eighth grade, but it has been everything I expected,” Harris said. “Varsity is a lot different, more physical and faster. Everything is just more advanced.”
Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said Harris has shown moments of youth.
Blade added, however, Harris' pure skill and mental acumen has made up for a lot.
“As a freshman, and she's a young freshman at that, she's a good scorer and she has great scoring mentality,” Blade said. “She's not just a shooter, but she's got to be able to do all aspects of the game for us, which she's getting better at. There's a learning curve for freshmen. She has good size and understands the game well. Her basketball IQ is good. She's just got to get over the hump of the physicality. Middle school to high school is a big jump.”
Blade added the expectations of Harris should only continue to grow throughout her career.
“The ceiling is really high for Syd,” Blade said. “Without a doubt. She's got some things to work on, but a lot of it comes easy to her. She's put a ton of time in on the outside, working on her shooting and different things. She loves the game, has a good understanding of it and high expectations go along with that.”
WESTMINSTER CAPTURES OWN TOURNAMENT
Westminster hasn't skipped a beat with the turn of the calendar.
After finishing as the runner-up of the MICDS Holiday Tournament, the Wildcats (8-3) returned to action by winning all three games of the Wildcat New Year Shootout.
Prior to beating Cor Jesu 49-31 in the title game, the Wildcats edged Nerinx Hall and ran past Pattonville.
“I thought we did what we were trying to do, for the most part,” Westminster coach Shannon Lawrence said. “It was a good team effort. I thought everybody played pretty well.”
In the title game, freshman Brooke Highmark led the way in scoring for the second game in a row, tallying 17 points.
Lawrence was quick to point out the contribution of junior guard Macey Lottmann.
“She did real well, she kind of plays inside-outside for us,” Lawrence said. “She had 10 rebounds for us — five on the offensive end and five on defense. That was a big spark for us in the first half on the boards and that really helped us.”
Lawrence likes what she has seen so far.
“We're always looking for ways we can get better and working on things we can improve upon in terms of our effort and putting a few good games together in a row,” Lawrence said. “We did a pretty good job of that.”
FORT ZUMWALT WEST WINS TOURNAMENT, RUNS WIN STREAK TO FIVE
The Lutheran South Tournament was a good one for Fort Zumwalt West.
A 57-49 win over the host school in the title game was the fifth successive win for the Jaguars (9-5).
West opened the game on a 15-4 run and never looked back.
Christen and junior guard Lillie Pickett were named to the all-tournament team while Palmer was named the event's Most Valuable Player.
• The Union Tournament runs this week and it boasts a tough field among its seven participants. Jefferson City (13-0, No. 1 in Class 5), Rock Bridge (5-2), Francis Howell Central (10-1, No. 9 in Class 5, No 1 LS), Borgia (5-4), Sullivan (7-3) and Union (9-2, No. 5 small-schools) are in the field. The championship game is slated for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
• The Warrenton Shootout is another event this week. Joining the host school are: Washington, Francis Howell North, Moberly, Hannibal, O'Fallon Christian, Liberty and Northwest Academy. The tournament championship is slated for 8:30 p.m. Friday.
• There are three players in the St. Louis area who are averaging 20 points or more per game this season. The group consists of: Principia's Jordan Fredrickson (26 points per game), Parkway North Je'Naiya Davis (20.2) and Belleville East's Bryce Dowell (20.0). Fredrickson is also the area's leading free-throw shooter, with a success rate of 88.3 percent.
• The race for the top rebounder in the area is also an interesting one. Tied at the top of the list are De Soto's Kendall Boyer and Dupo's Octavia Heidelberg. Both are pulling down 14.4 rebounds per game.