With a final score of 69-39, it wouldn’t be surprising that Truman’s boys basketball team trailed Park Hill South by 20 in the second quarter and at halftime.
But Patriots still managed to put a little scare in the Panther fans at the North Kansas City Invitational, whittling the deficit down to nine in the third quarter before Park Hill South pulled away for an easy semifinal victory Wednesday.
Truman (5-9) had beaten Park Hill South (10-4) for the last five North Kansas City titles, and this is just the second time since 2003 that the Patriots didn’t reach the finals.
But after watching his team fell behind 25-5 barely halfway through the second quarter, Truman coach Billy Guinnee had flashbacks to a different game.
“I thought it was an instant replay of Blue Springs South in the season opener,” Guinnee said, referring a 31-7 first quarter. “The kids were shell-shocked, timid and scared.
“Once we started playing, we could hang with them, but we’d dug too big a hole.”
After Reid Titus’ 3-pointer made it 3-2 in the opening minutes, Truman didn’t score the rest of the quarter, shooting 1 of 9 for the period. By the time Dewayne Thornton drove for a basket at the 5:10 mark of the second, the Panthers had built a 17-3 lead.
Evan Hines had his way down low and Payton Meek and Ryan Welty each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half for the Panthers, who led 12-3 after one quarter and 31-11 at halftime.
“We hit some shots and tried to take away their two shooters, and we did a good job of that,” Panthers coach Rick Zych said of the first half.
Guinnee said the Patriots had a rough time dealing with Park Hill’s South height (four of its top seven are listed between 6-foot-4 and 6-6), a thought echoed by Titus.
“I just thought we came out a little intimidated,” said Titus who finished with four 3-pointers and a team-high 14 points. “They’re real tall, and we’re not that big, but we didn’t box out or do the little things well.
“I thought we changed it up the second half and played with them.”
The Patriots opened the third quarter with a 15-4 run, aided by four Panther turnovers. Point guard Michael Hernandez scored all 10 his points in that span, including a pair of treys. Titus added one of his long-range bombs, and Rashaad Cole’s offensive rebound resulted in a pair of free throws that made it 35-26 with 3:11 still to play in the third quarter.
But Hudson Welty scored twice down low, and 3-balls by Meek and Ryan Welty pushed the margin back to 45-32 for the fourth quarter. The Patriots shot 3 of 13 in the fourth, finishing 13 of 45 from the field.
Park Hill South owned a 35-18 rebounding advantage, allowing just three offensive rebounds by Truman. Hines finished with 22 points and nine boards, while Ryan Welty had 13 and seven, respectively, and Meek added 11 points.
After Titus and Hernandez, Thornton (6 points) was the only Patriot with more than two points.
“We’re not having a great season, so we need to just come out and play with heart and intensity,” Guinnee said. “We don’t have anything to lose by playing hard.”
“We’ve got to come ready to play,” added Titus, “no matter who we play.”
Truman plays the loser of Wednesday's late semi, Winnetonka vs. Raymore-Peculiar, in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. Friday.