With the teachers in the stands Thursday night at Blue Springs South High School, the student wanted to show what he had learned.
Former Examiner Player of the Year Justin Pitts and all-area standout Carl Martin were at South to watch their former team and young protégé K.J. Robinson, and they were not disappointed.
The sophomore guard scored a game-high 22 points and was flawless directing the Jaguar offense in a 74-51 victory over Park Hill that avenged last week’s last-second loss to the Trojans in the first round of the McDonald’s Tournament.
“Everything I learned,” Robinson said, “I learned practicing against Carl and Justin last year and from our coaches. I'm just learning all this stuff, finding out what the varsity game is all about. And it's great to have had teammates like Carl and Justin last year because they really watched out for me and taught me a lot.”
With Robinson running the show and taking care of the Jaguars’ outside offense, big men Kevin Puryear, Jacob Towler and Kendall Blanton dominated inside. Puryear finished with 16 points, Towler had 10 off the bench and Blanton added six blocked shots.
“It was a good team win,” South coach Jimmy Cain said after his team improved to 3-1. “K.J. is really getting the hang of running the offense, and when we have that inside-outside game working, we're a good team.”
Cain also praised his bench, as Towler was a force inside and Thomas Abarca came in for the injured Briley Moore-McKinney and scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers in a 21-point third quarter that helped South pad its lead to 52-38.
“Thomas came in and did just what we expected him to do,” Cain said. “You hate to lose Briley (to an ankle injury in the opening minute) like that, but when the bench comes in and does such an outstanding job, it doesn't hurt the team as much as it could.”
South rolled to a 17-7 first-quarter lead and went into the locker room at halftime with a 31-21 advantage.
“We had some young guys like K.J. step it up tonight against a very good Park Hill team,” Cain said. “It took a while to get accustomed to the way the game was being officiated. I felt like I had to stand up for my big guys, who can absorb a beating out there. Then our guards have to learn how to adjust to what was being called when Park Hill had the ball.”
Robinson said the adjustment has not been a problem for him because officials state-wide are calling more touch fouls and this is his first year as a varsity starter.
“For some seniors and older players it's going to be tough because everyone talks about how they're calling more fouls this year. I just try to take what they give me,” Robinson said.
Abarca said it was a total team effort.
“I know when I come into a game, Coach wants some offense, and I'm going to do my best to give it to him and the team,” the senior guard said. “But tonight, it was all about the team. K.J. and Brandon (Kilgore, eight points) had great games and our big guys did it all – shooting, playing defense, getting rebounds.
“This team is all about playing as a team, and doing what Coach tells us to do. This was a big win, and our fans played a big role tonight too. They were so loud, and they give us a lot of energy.”
Landry Shamet scored 21 points to lead Park Hill.
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC