KEARNEY – If Truman wants to go deeper into the postseason in boys basketball than it did this season, the Patriots need to bulk up, according to Patriots coach Billy Guinnee.
Guinnee made that observation after Monday night’s 70-53 season-ending loss to Kearney in the Class 5 District 14 tournament at Kearney High School. In the post, the Patriots (10-16) were outsized by about 100 pounds per player, he estimated. Dray Starzl, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, was the anchor for Kearney’s big men, posting a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds.
“When you’re giving up 100 pounds, you just can’t stop a guy,” Guinnee said.
Junior forward Keith Fletcher was among those who felt Kearney’s muscle in the paint Monday.
“They were pushing us around a little bit,” said Fletcher, who was held to three points.
The Bulldogs, who also defeated the Patriots during the regular season, were among several bulky opponents Truman faced, Guinnee said.
“We’ve (also) played Blue Springs South, Park Hill South,” he said. “The schedule’s been a murderer’s row.”
Guinnee said the Patriots have a few “post players in the wings” who might help them match up better next season. But “they’ve got to realize that, if they want to be successful, they’re going to have to get in the weight room and really work,” he added.
“It’s not enough to just go in and work out at school,” he said. “That’s got to be all summer long. You’ve got to make a commitment to get stronger.”
Fletcher is among those Patriots who plan to take Guinnee’s comments to heart.
“We were outsized almost every game this season, so that’s something I’m going to get more into – (get) in the weight room and get bigger,” he said.
Despite being outsized Monday night, Truman led for much of the first quarter. Kearney led 12-11 at quarter’s end, thanks to Pierce Moling’s late 3-pointer.
Leading 21-16, the Bulldogs outscored the Patriots 10-5 down the stretch of the second quarter to lead 31-21 at halftime. Starzl powered Kearney by scoring 14 of his points during the quarter.
Led by Michael Hernandez’s eight third-quarter points, the Patriots narrowed Kearney’s lead to 44-36 entering the fourth quarter. Hernandez ended up with 23 points to pace Truman, followed by fellow guard Reid Titus with 15.
Kearney responded by outscoring the Patriots 26-17 the final quarter to finish Truman’s season.
“We didn’t go where we wanted to go,” Fletcher said. “But next year, we’re coming back. (We’re) going to be stronger than ever.”
Kearney will face Liberty at 6 p.m. Thursday in the district semifinals at Kearney. The Blue Jays had a first-round bye.