Individually, Truman's trio of post players are an imposing crew.
But when you combine their one-of-a-kind talents, they become what coach Steve Cassity likes to call “our three-headed monster.”
Senior Becca Jonas, who became just the fifth 1,000-point player in Truman history this past Monday, and super sophomores Bri Savidge and Lexi Hart are the most dominating trio of post players in Eastern Jackson County – and maybe the state.
“They give us the perfect scenario at the post position,” said Cassity, whose 13-1 team will meet Liberty at 7 tonight in the semifinals of the Truman Invitational. “Individually they are strong players, but as a group they are just about unstoppable because they complement each other so well.
“Becca can be a force, or a finesse player, and Bri and Lexi pick up on that. You know every night what you're going to get from Becca, and we've been kind of flip-flopping Bri and Lexi in the starting lineup – although Bri had that nice little run where she averaged in double figures every game and became a force for us offensively.”
Then last week, Savidge injured her wrist, missed a game, and is now coming off the bench with Hart taking over the starting role.
“I don't care if I start or come off the bench,” said Savidge, who is averaging just more than 11 points this season, “because all any of us care about is winning.”
And the Patriots, who are ranked No. 4 in the state in the latest coaches’ poll, realized that winning would become a bit more difficult with the loss of senior all-around standout Kayla Harrell, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
“Kayla did all the dirty work, playing tough defense, always getting the top player from the other team, working on the boards – all that stuff you don't see in the scorebook,” Savidge said. “So now it's time for all of us to step up our game and do the dirty work.
“And I think everyone on the team has accepted that challenge. We're winning and we're having fun, and I never thought Lexi and I would be as much a part of the team as we are this year. And that makes it even more fun for us.”
Cassity said it was inevitable that Savidge and Hart – two of the area's top volleyball players – would crack the Patriots’ starting lineup this season.
“I can't say I'm surprised it happened so soon,” Cassity said, “because Bri and Lexi are great, great athletes. So many people think of Bri as a volleyball player and Lexi as a volleyball player (she earned MHSVCA honorable mention all-state honors) or track standout (she topped 38 feet in the triple jump as a freshman).
Page 2 of 3 - “But I like to think of them as pretty darn good basketball players. And I love to see them watch Becca do something in a game or a practice, and then see them do it in a game. They pay attention, and they have a good teacher in Becca and my assistant, Darin Hall.
“Darin is a former head coach (at Lee’s Summit West) with two hundred-some wins, and it's so beneficial to me and our post players that we have him on our staff. He has made each of those girls a better player, and collectively, he knows how to get the best out of each one of them. Man, we're lucky to have him.”
Hall enjoys the interaction with Truman's post players and appreciates their work ethic and basketball IQ.
“They just keep getting better and better,” Hall said. “They really challenge each other in practice, and when you're going against some of the best players in the city on a daily basis at practice, you're going to improve. Becca is just a great all-around player, and we're all excited about the daily improvement we see from Bri and Lexi.”
In Monday’s 49-37 victory over Lee's Summit, the trio of post players combined for 36 points and 22 boards. Jonas had 20 points and 12 boards, and Savidge and Hart added eight points each and a combined total of 10 rebounds.
“What coach wouldn't take 36 points in the paint and 22 boards?” asked Cassity. “And we get production night in and night out from those girls.”
And Jonas said the Patriots aren’t afraid to use it.
“We had a big size advantage over Lee's Summit and we took advantage of it,” said Jonas, who is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per game. “Bri and Lexi did a great job tonight – all the girls did.
“We're kind of a work in progress now because we lost Kayla and we're playing zone defense instead of man defense. Kayla would always take our opponent's best (offensive) player, and now we're playing a zone and we're getting better at it each game we play.
“This is a special team. I love working with Bri and Lexi. We all played volleyball together and I saw them grow so much during the volleyball season, and now they're doing the same thing during the basketball season. They are so much fun to watch. I'm really proud of them.”
Twice this season, Jonas and Savidge have hooked up for crowd-pleasing floor-length passes that have ended with an easy layup.
“Center to center,” quipped Cassity. “How often do you see that?”
Added Savidge: “I felt like a wide receiver catching a pass from a quarterback. It's fun when you have a play like that. It gets everyone excited. And with Becca making the pass, you can always expect her to find the open player.”
Page 3 of 3 - Hart, who readily admits she feels more comfortable on the volleyball court, said she likes the challenge of starting for the Patriots’ basketball squad.
“I'm feeling more comfortable out there,” said Hart, who is averaging six points a night. “Bri and I get to learn from the best with our coaches and Becca, and I'm liking basketball more and more. I love volleyball, because it's my sport. But I'm having so much fun this season with Bri and Becca the rest of the girls.
“And I hear coach calls us 'the three-headed monster.' I like that, too.”