Top high school sports efforts of 2013

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In North Cass County, spectators of local high school sports are spoiled.

Trust me.

I grew up in rural Pettis County, graduating from a Class 2 high school that featured no football, wrestling, swimming, or tennis. In fact, I was a part of the school’s first ever golf team my sophomore year – scoring a match-best 52 in our first 9-hole contest. I’m still waiting on the response to my PGA Tour Card application.

As you can imagine, I’ve had to learn some things along the way as I cover sports for Classes 5 and 6. The student-athletes are bigger, stronger, faster, and much more skilled. Not only am I watching sports performed by high schoolers for the first time, but I’m watching them done right. The games are fun to watch and the quality of play is oftentimes spectacular.

So for that reason, it was somewhat difficult to pick my “top five” athletic performances of the year. There are so many good athletes with great character and personality between Ray-Pec and Belton High Schools that narrowing a list to five people or events seems impossible. I did my best, however, and am hopeful that you will enjoy re-living each one of them as I did.

#5 May 6: Strikeout Hunter

Hunter Phillips was a stud on the mound for the Raymore-Peculiar baseball team this season. Along with Storm Rynard and Cort Lesmeister, southpaw Phillips anchored the pitching staff for the Panthers.

On May 6 of this year, Phillips took the ball and faced off against Lee’s Summit North — one of Ray-Pec’s last games before Districts. The performance that would ensue was a work of art.

Phillips pitched nearly a complete game (6.2 innings) throwing a total of 121 pitches. At the high school level, that’s rare achieve-ment.

“We tend to not let them go over a hundred [pitches],” head coach Gary Renshaw said after the game.

“But with Hunter, and it being a warm day, his arm was ready to go…he was fine and was throwing well.”

The 2013 Ray-Pec grad almost threw a no-hitter, surrendering his only hit of the game in the sixth inning on his 78th pitch.

“It was a good team effort,” Phillips said after the game.

“Going into it I didn’t think I’d do as well as I did.”

The Panthers won that game 3-1, but would not make it far in Districts, losing 3-2 in extra innings to Lee’s Summit West in the second round. West went on to lose the District Championship to Rockhurst 11-1.

#4 September 20: Panthers bruise Bruins in upset

Raymore-Peculiar football has seen better days than what they experienced in the 2013 season. After being moved to Class 6 in 2010, the memories of winning three straight Missouri State Championships (2004-2006) have never felt more distant.

Senior running back Steve Brown finds a seem September 20 in Columbia.

Senior running back Steve Brown finds a seem September 20 in Columbia.

This season did bring some bright spots, however, and no other game shined brighter than the upset victory the Panthers earned over the Rock Bridge Bruins.

Ray-Pec started the 2013 season 1-2 and had just suffered a heart-breaking double-overtime loss to Blue Springs South in the middle of September. Rock Bridge, the next team listed on their schedule, was ranked second in the state and always provides a challenge to their opponents.

“After the double overtime loss last week I had no idea how we would respond,” head coach Tom Kruse said at the time.

“[The Bruins] aren’t the number-two ranked team in the state for nothing.”

After going into the locker room trailing 21-14, the Panthers would not let the home team score in all of the second half. The feat is even more incredible when taking into account the fact that Rock Bridge had averaged 48 points per game up to that point.

Seniors Jordan Van Trump and Bubba Blackburn made huge plays on defense and quarterback Reed Davis steered Ray-Pec to a 31-21 victory in Columbia.

Belton's Lewis Wilkins spots up for a jump shot in the fourth quarter against Ruskin.

Belton’s Lewis Wilkins spots up for a jump shot in the fourth quarter against Ruskin.

The Panthers went on to finish the season 4-5 and lost to Liberty in the first round of the District Tournament 35-6.

#3 February 25: Letting Lewis loose

Putting a team on your back is one thing. Completely carrying your team in the fourth quarter of the biggest game of the year is something different altogether.

Lewis Wilkins, now a senior for Belton High School, put on one of the best high school basketball performances anyone could ever wish to see in the first round of the District Tournament last winter.

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To read the rest of the story, grab a copy of The Raymore Journal in stores this week!

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