When Becca Jonas and her Truman High School teammates walked out of the locker room, their eyes were red and full of tears.
“But they were tears of joy,” said sophomore Bri Savidge, one of the four Patriots to reach double figures on a memorable Senior Night, in which the Patriots wrapped up a stellar regular season with a 72-42 rout of Park Hill South Thursday night.
“We were all crying – the sophomores, the seniors, everyone. But they were good tears. It showed how much we all mean to each other. None of us want this season to end.”
The Patriots, with their 16th-straight win, finished the regular season with a 23-1 overall record and their third-consecutive 10-0 conference title. The Patriots, who have won 33 straight in conference play, will meet the winner of Saturday’s first-round game between Fort Osage and William Chrisman in the district semifinals Tuesday night at Kearney High School.
“This was an amazing night – one of those nights you remember for the rest of your life,” said Jonas, who led all scorers with 25 points. “We had all our parents here, a lot of students and fans and the kids from the IYAA (Independence Youth Athletic Association) basketball programs.
“We wanted to go out with a bang, and we did.”
But they didn't start off with a bang, as a gritty Panther squad trailed just 19-15 after one period – and it was 16-15 until sophomore Sydney Paialii hot a long 3-pointer before the buzzer.
“We were all so emotional at the first of the game; it took us a while to get into the flow of the game,” said senior Abby Hix, who did not score in the first period but finished with 17 points and four 3-pointers. “We wanted to do so well, I think we tried a little too hard in the first period. But once we got going, everyone got into the offense. This is one of the best games we've played this season, and it's a good win to go into district.”
Truman took a 40-23 lead into halftime and wound up with a running clock in the fourth period. Jonas, Hix, Savidge (14) and Paialii (13) all scored in double figures.
“This is a good group of kids, and I'm happy for them,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said. “They worked so hard tonight. You could tell how much this game meant to all of them, but especially our seniors.”
When asked about the emotion of the night, Cassity said, “There was a lot of emotion in the locker room before and after the game. This was a special night for a special group of girls.”
And it was a special night for Cassity's young son Jaden, who tugged on his dad's arm to say, “Mom won a raffle prize tonight.”
That brought a smile to the coach's face as Jaden told Cassity that his wife Althea won one of the raffle items.
“I guess we're all winners tonight,” the coach said as Jaden grinned and nodded in agreement.
It was a different story for the Truman boys as they managed to hang with Park Hill South for one quarter, but lost 63-34.
“When we slowed it down, and looked for the good shot, we were all right,” Truman coach Billy Guinnee said after his Patriots fell to 10-14, 4-6. “We hurried some shots, took some bad shots and we just couldn't keep up with them. They were too big and fast.”
Michael Hernandez led Truman with 13 points, and Robert Lane scored 17 points to lead Park Hill South.