With Liberty defenders swarming around Truman center Becca Jonas likes ants on a picnic pie, coach Steve Cassity knew his Patriots would need an outside presence against the Blue Jays Thursday night in the semifinals of the Truman Invitational.
Enter senior guard Abby Hix, who could soon join Jonas in the elite Truman 1,000-point club. Hix was on fire from long range, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 15 points in the first half to spark the Patriots to a 51-36 victory over the Blue Jays.
Truman will take a 14-1 record into a 3 p.m. championship game Saturday against Shawnee Mission (Kan.) Northwest, a 43-36 winner over Lee’s Summit North.
“Kind of an ugly game, wasn't it?” Cassity said after a brief postgame meeting with his team. “That's a good, big-class Liberty team, and we're thrilled to come away with another win. But they made us earn it.
“You could tell early on they were going to do all they could to take Becca out of our offense, and Abby stepped up and had a nice game.”
Truman led just 10-9 after one period, but the Blue Jays could not find the range from 3-point range and the Patriots grabbed a 26-14 advantage at halftime.
“I owe all my points to the girls tonight, because they did a great job screening so I could get a shot off,” said Hix, who finished with four 3-pointers and a game-high 22 points, a personal season-high. “Teams are going to start defending us differently now that Kayla (Harrell, an all-around standout who is out for the season with a torn ACL) isn't playing.
“Coach tells us before every game that Becca is going to get double- and triple-teamed and I'm going to have to shoot with a hand in my face. Because of my teammates, there weren't many hands in my face tonight and I was able to get a good look at the basket.”
With Hix lighting up the Jays from the outside, the defense could not collapse inside with two and three defenders and Jonas joined in on the fun, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven boards before fouling out at 5:19 of the fourth period.
“They were all over me tonight,” Jonas said. “But I had some stupid fouls. At least this happened in a game we won. I can't make fouls like that in a close game – and I won't. Especially that last over the back (foul). Geez!”
Once again, Cassity’s “three-headed monster” trio of Jonas, Bri Savidge and Lexi Hart dominated inside, finishing with a combined 26 points (Savidge added eight and Hart had five) and 16 rebounds.
More impressive was the fact that Jonas and the Patriots forced nine Liberty turnovers in the paint and held the Blue Jays to just five points inside.
“Becca has such a presence in the paint and takes up so much room, and Bri and Lexi are so athletic and can jump out of the gym,” Cassity said. “They all complement each other real well. They especially did tonight.”
Liberty's Chiarra Franklin scored nine points in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 11. She was the lone Blue Jay in double figures.
“This was a good test heading into the championship game on Saturday,” Cassity said. “We had an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers (18) and need to clean some things up. We'll work on that at practice tomorrow.”
SHAWNEE MISSION NORTHWEST 53, LEE'S SUMMIT NORTH 46: Imani Johnson led all scorers with 20 points, but it was not enough to get the Broncos into Saturday's title game.
North held a slim 13-12 lead after one quarter but trailed 27-21 at halftime. Shawnee Mission Northwest padded the lead to 44-31 going into the final period. Arielle Jackson scored 14 points to lead the Cougars.