The Truman girls basketball team will have a chance to repeat as tournament champions at the 38th Annual Winnetonka Invitational.
The Patriots started off on fire from the 3-point line and never yielded the lead on the way to a 60-45 victory over Center Thursday night.
Last year the Patriots beat Smithville to win the Cardinal Division Bracket and this year they will play Platte County in the Gold Division Bracket final. The Pirates defeated Oak Park 58-51 in the other semifinal.
Truman – winners of the 2014 Cardinal Division – faces a Platte County team that has won titles in the field in 2007-2009 and 2015.
“We will play a team that executes and plays hard and runs their offense,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said. “Right now, we don't do that. It will be a difficult contest if we play like we did tonight.
“We advanced, you know, but there aren't many positives in this game. The first three minutes were really positive and the next 29 were negative.”
Cassity doesn't sound like a coach whose team won, instead one that showed frustration with his team's effort after a fast start.
Three-pointers by Erin Davis and Becca Gilpin helped Truman (2-1) jump to a 16-6 lead after a quarter. Aside from a free throw by Jewel Hart, the Patriots got all of their points from deep as Davis hit three treys and Gilpin had two.
However, Truman struggled shooting from the field the final three quarters – hitting only 15 shots against Center (1-1), which went from a 3-2 zone to man-to-man over the final three quarters.
Overall, the Patriots shot 20 of 70 from the field and the work from the free throw line wasn't much better – hitting 11 of 24.
Despite the woes, Truman led 28-17 at the break.
“We started the game well, we've done that the past two games,” Cassity said. “Then we lose focus and stop running our offense. We start playing selfishly and turning the ball over. We are about a three-minute ballclub and the rest of the game is chaos.
“We don't get good shots because we don't run our offense and we don't make shots because we don't get good shots. It is a simple formula. If we don't get it figured out, we won't win many games.”
Truman had its best offensive showing out of the break, scoring 19 points in the third. Four players combined for the point totals, with Hart scoring seven of her game-high 18 points in the frame. Brodi Byrd scored all six of her points in the third quarter.
Center, down 47-27, rallied in the fourth quarter and scored 18 points – 11 coming from McKenzie Pearson.
“We get in our own head and our own way,” said Yellowjackets coach Katrina Johnigan, whose team had only one starter returning this year. “We didn't know anything about Truman. To me, Truman is Truman. We don't play them, we don't see them. We saw them on film. That was it.”