Who can stop the Truman girls' basketball team? Lately, no one has.
Lee's Summit West tried to slow the No. 3-ranked squad in the state, but the Patriots showed exactly why they are one of the favorites to win the Class 5 crown, making the Titans their latest blowout victim in a 55-28 victory Thursday.
The triumph was Truman's 12th straight, all of them won by double digits. So with this recent dominant streak, how does Patriot coach Steve Cassity keep the girls motivated?
“I wish I could tell you some secret in what I say or do, but we really just watch film and prepare well,” he said. “The credit really goes to the girls. They are great, smart kids. They do a good job of studying the scouting report and using it on defense.”
“We come out every night with the mentality that we are competing against ourselves, too,” said Becca Jonas, whose 21 points led all scorers. “We always want to play better than we did previously.”
The victory brought the Truman's record to 19-1 and 6-0 in the Suburban Middle Six Conference. The Patriots have blasted league opponents by an average of 28.5 points per contest, and with four conference games remaining they are not about to let up.
“We are working really hard in practice,” Patriots senior guard Ashley McKinney said. “We are taking every game one step at a time to get where we need to be. We come out there every day just ready to work.”
They can't slow down now. Just look at last season. Truman had a historic year in 2012-13, going 25-0 before falling to Kearney in the district finals. Although the team is focused on the here and now, that loss serves as a reminder why the girls push themselves on a consistent basis.
“It does pop in our heads every once in a while,” Jonas said with a smirk. “It motivates us, but we know this is a new year, and come postseason, we are looking to survive and advance. We still want to finish out this regular season strong.”
The Patriots certainly looked like a team on a mission, racing out to an 11-2 lead in the first and going into the second up by eight. Truman's full-court press stymied the Titans early on, leading to first-half 12 turnovers and a 30-14 lead heading into the break.
Even when the Patriots weren't forcing turnovers, they still flexed their defensive muscle in the half court. Jonas had several blocks when the Titans would feed the ball in the post, and Truman's zone defense worked wonders, holding the Titans to 17 percent shooting from the floor.
“Sydney (Paialii) was really active in front of the zone tonight,” Cassity said of his sophomore, who had four steals, “and of course when you have a presence likes Jonas, it's hard for other teams to get to the rim. That combination has been very effective from keeping some of these teams from scoring.”
West had just three field goals in the third quarter, its most in any period, which included a buzzer-beating heave from halfcourt by Taylor Jackson. Even after that, Truman still held a 22-point lead going into the fourth.
The Titans came within 20 a couple of times in the final frame, but that's as close as they would get, as Paialii capped an emphatic victory with a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.
Paialii chipped in 11 points to back Jonas, and Lexi Hart and Abby Hix had seven each for Truman.