Brian Starr got things started, and then Skylar Thompson and Will Penamon finished the job.
Starr carried the Fort Osage boys basketball team offensively in the first half, scoring 14 of his 18 points to keep the Indians within striking distance. From there, Thompson and Penamon took over, combining for 30 points in the final two quarters to help Fort Osage pick up a big 72-62 Suburban Middle Seven Conference win over Raytown.
“That was one of the things we were talking about all week, winning this conference game,” said Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson, whose team won its sixth in a row and improved to 11-5 (4-1 Middle Seven). “Raytown is such a good team and they got some monsters. We knew we had to get this one.”
For Thompson and Starr, it was just another day at the office, as both average double figures. It was Penamon's performance that turned heads. Coming in with a 5.6 points per game average, the junior went off for 18 points, all in the second half.
“He's starting to play better and hit his shots,” Wilson said. “He's just so lightning quick. Once you get him there in the middle, he can do great things.”
He is starting to come into his own. Penamon put up 20 points in the team's last game against North Kansas City. In this one, after a scoreless first half, he took a much more aggressive approach and got to the basket with dribble drives and on fast breaks.
“Coach always tells me to attack more,” Penamon said. “I took advantage of the defense. My teammates moved around and moved the ball well, and it gave me a chance to attack.”
That aggressive mentality helped him get to the line often where he made nine out of 10 free throw attempts. Penamon said he owes his success at the line to Wilson.
“Free throws used to be my toughest mentality because everyone's eyes are on you,” Penamon said with a smile. “Coach told us when he used to play, he always made sure he had arch and shot with his legs. Every time I shoot free throws now, I think arch and legs.”
His play helped turn a 30-26 halftime deficit into a 39-36 lead when he hit a 3-pointer from the right wing at the three-minute mark in the third, giving his team its first lead since late in the first quarter. Thompson then joined in on the fun, hitting a pair of tough layups, the last one resulting in an old-fashioned three-point play and a six-point Fort Osage advantage.
“My teammates definitely helped me out a lot,” said Thompson, who finished with 19 points. “In the first half, a lot of shots were not going in for me. But in the second half, our aggressive mentality opened things up for me.”
Page 2 of 2 - After the Indians went into the fourth up 46-38, they went on a 16-9 run, highlighted by Starr's full-court pass that found Penamon for a cherry-pick basket. Raytown put a little bit of a scare into the Indians, cutting the lead to seven after a Bryon Saxton free throw with 2:32 remaining.
Fort Osage used clutch free-throw shooting to seal it in the final two minutes, making 11 of 14 at the line to move into a tie with Raytown atop the Middle Seven.
The Indians might not have been in a position to win in the first place without Starr's efforts. The senior attacked the heart of the Raytown defense, scoring three of his field goals on drives to the bucket.
“I was going for a fast tempo,” Starr said. “I wanted to get them into foul trouble. They weren't able to be too aggressive because they got into foul trouble early.”
Those types of baskets didn't come easy, especially with 6-foot-8 sophomore Derrick Walker and 6-foot-7 junior Jailen Gill protecting the basket. Luckily for the Indians, they've had plenty of experience facing tall post players.
“We've been dealing with that all year,” Wilson said. “We played Liberty North who had two kids at 6-foot-5 and Kearney who had two 6-foot-5 guys. Logan Haugmo, Brandon Hoeppner and Bailey Williamson really made Raytown's bigs work hard on defense, and the guards put enough pressure on their perimeter players to keep them from passing the ball down low.”
John Burton led Raytown (12-6) with 21 points and Gill added 12.