Having to face Lee’s Summit West in a showdown for a final four berth will be difficult for Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little. And it’s not just because of the formidable talent the Titans can put on the floor.
It’s knowing the kids behind all the talent that makes it so hard.
“For me it’s going to be unbelievably difficult,” Little said March 12 after the Tigers beat Fort Osage 67-58 in a Class 5 sectional at the Independence Events Center. “We have a dream we’ve worked very hard to achieve and I know they have, too. And the hard thing for me is that I’ve coached all those kids for three years.”
Now all that stands in the way of Lee’s Summit’s dream of reaching the Class 5 state tournament are the Titans in a quarterfinal contest set for 2:45 p.m. March 15 at the Independence Events Center. Conversely, the Tigers stand between the Titans and a return to the final four for the first time in two years.
Not only is Little a former JV coach at West, he also still teaches history there, which makes his situation all the more uncomfortable. He still sees many of his former players every day and retains a close relationship with the Titans’ coaching staff.
“I love those kids,” Little said. “That coaching staff over there are some of my best friends. You know you’re always going to end somebody’s season … but it’s never quite the same thing when it’s people you love and care about that you’re in the way of.”
Little said it was hard enough playing West in a non-conference game back in January, a game the Tigers won 62-60 in their only meeting during the regular season. The Tigers handed the Titans their first loss of the season, but Little didn’t feel like celebrating.
“I didn’t sleep the night before or the night after,” Little said.
While Little may be seem ambivalent about a rematch, his former players appear not to be so reluctant.
“We want it to be Lee’s Summit,” West senior Jared Dixon said before the Tigers played. “Coach (Michael Schieber) was like don’t look ahead to the next game, but after we won he was like, ‘I hope we get who we want to play Saturday.’ ”