Even teams as veteran and successful as the Truman girls basketball squad are prone to first-game jitters.
But teams as good as the Patriots tend to minimize the effects of those jitters and snap out of them before long.
Such was the case in Tuesday’s season opener at Fort Osage High School, as the visiting Patriots ditched an early 9-2 deficit, gained control in the second quarter and rolled to a 61-31 victory over the neighboring rival Indians.
A pair of baskets down low from Asia Cole, a 3-pointer from Lorena Reyes and two Paige Bunn free throws staked the Indians to their early lead, while the Patriots shot 1 of 6 and committed three turnovers.
Truman coach Steve Cassity wasn’t worried, however.
“It’s a veteran team. I had a lot of confidence that we would right the ship and play well eventually,” said Cassity, who welcomed back three college-bound starters and a key reserve from a team that won 25 straight last year before suffering its only loss in the district finals. “We were turning it over, stagnant on offense, and (Abby Hix) hits one or two 3’s. It gets us right back in it.”
Truman got back to 9-7 by quarter’s end on Hix’s first trey and a pair of Becca Jonas free throws, and Kayla Harrell’s 3-ball to start the second gave Truman its first lead.
Baskets from Cole and Siera Glassford allowed Fort Osage to keep pace for a couple minutes, but Truman finished the second quarter on a 17-3 run to produce a 29-16 halftime lead. Jonas had seven of her 11 points in that spurt, Hix added six of her game-high 18 points and Lexi Hart capped things with a buzzer-beating putback.
Hix acknowledged her team’s initial butterflies.
“First game, we were going to be slow to start out,” she said. “We just focused on pounding it down (inside) and doing what we know how to do.
“Becca’s a great passer. The first option is getting it to her because she’s a great scorer, but if that’s not there or people double her, she passes it out.”
Fort Osage got no closer in the second half. Truman first pushed the margin to 20 when Jonas’ high-low assist to Sydney Paialii made it 44-24, and the Patriots took a 47-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Patriots limited the Indians to just 10-of-36 shooting and outrebounded them by a 30-14 margin.
“That’s that we talk about – defense, rebounding and hustle should be a constant,” Cassity said. “That’s what carries you during offensive droughts.”
Jonas had three assists to go along with her 11 points. Bri Savidge also had 11 points, while Harrell pitched in eight and Hart six. Savidge and Hart, sophomores who led the Patriot volleyball team, combined for five offensive rebounds. Ashley McKinney didn’t score but chipped in a pair of assists and steals.
Bunn finished with nine points, and Cole eight for the Indians, who simply got away from what they had practiced – and practiced well – according to coach Dawn Williams.
“We didn’t get offensive rebounds,” Williams said. “You’re not going to be anybody with 10 baskets. We need second-chance points, and we just didn’t get them.
“We stopped being physical. They ran that curl cut 90 million times – it didn’t matter who I put in. The first quarter was great; that’s what it’s been in practice. Then we couldn’t find any offense, and affected our defense. We hadn’t seen anything like that in practice, and Truman's too good to get down by 15 against.”