Fort Osage guard Dez Griswold made a bank shot early in the fourth quarter to put his team up 55-36 against Truman.
It was at that point the game looked like it was a foregone conclusion.
Not so fast.
The Patriots somehow cut that 19-point deficit to three when Kaimen Lennox buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 65-62 late in the fourth.
However, Griswold made some clutch shots down the stretch and Xavier Kahube, who dominated the first half, made a key hustle play and pass to help Fort Osage withstand Truman’s late run in a 72-65 non-conference victory Friday.
The Indians (3-7) led by double digits since the end of the second period. Kahube, Fort Osage’s 6-foot-4 forward, couldn’t be stopped in the paint as he caught lob passes and finished around the rim and also had a couple of dribble drives result in layups to help his team take a 34-23 lead at halftime.
“We worked on that a lot in practice,” Kahube said of his teammates giving him the ball in the paint.
Kahube wasn’t able to play varsity last season due to personal issues but has been a key part of an Indians team that has lacked size in recent years. He took advantage of Truman’s lack of height in this one.
“We’ve been working with him and Tristan Turner a lot because they are our only big guys,” Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson said. “We worked with them on their footwork and the guards to get them the ball. There was no one who was not going to let him score in the first half.
“He can step outside and get a basket, too, and go in and shoot a layup. Probably three weeks ago, that jump hook he made in the first half, he probably wouldn’t have made that shot (then). Or he wouldn’t have taken it. He’s gaining confidence in those shots.”
Griswold hit a 3-pointer to open the third and scored seven points in the frame as his team extended the lead to 53-34 on Ky’Von Smith’s layup.
“We missed too many easy shots and … our backside help in the post wasn’t very good,” Truman coach Rod Briggs said. “(Kahube) was the difference in the game. We really couldn’t stop him.”
Once Griswold hit the bank shot to put his team up by 19, Truman guard Lennox caught fire and the game slowed to a crawl due to both teams being in the bonus. Truman took advantage.
Lennox completed a pair of conventional three-point plays in which he pump faked a defender into jumping before he shot the ball and drew contact, with his last one cutting to 57-43. Fort Osage tried to pull away again later in the period when Griswold, who had a game-high 28 points, stole an errant pass from Truman and made a fast break layup to push his team’s lead back to 62-47.
Lennox converted yet another three-point play on the ensuing possession before his teammate, forward Sam Billimon, made four free throws to slice the deficit to 62-54. That was part of a 15-3 run for the Patriots that also included a Jordan McKinney 3-pointer from the top of the key and five more points from Lennox, including the trey that cut it to three, a shot that set the crowd into a frenzy.
“Kaimen came out aggressive in the second half,” Briggs said of his sophomore who scored 23 of his team-high 27 points in the final 16 minutes. “He’s a gamer and a guy who competes. He’s going to be really good the next couple of years.”
Griswold then made his most clutch shot. After the Lennox three, he drove into the lane, appeared to draw contact from Truman forward Macio Moananu. There was no foul called but he hit a hanging jumper to put his team back up by five.
“I am a senior and have been on varsity four years,” Griswold said. “It’s all about not letting the pressure get to you.”
It was then Kahube’s turn to come up with a critical play.
After Truman’s Keaton Wiley missed a three, Fort Osage went to the other end and lost the ball. It was loose, but Kahube dove after it and was able to collect it and get a pass to Ty Baker for a layup that essentially put the game away, making it 69-62.
“The first four minutes of the fourth quarter took forever,” Wilson said. “They were hitting their free throws and we were missing ours. (Truman) has the ability to light it up. Luckily Dez was able to get a big bucket.”
Indians guard Nick Dye made 4 of 4 free throws to ensure there wasn’t going to be a miraculous comeback Truman in the closing moments. Before those free throws, Fort Osage missed 2 of 9 shots from the charity stripe, allowing for the Patriots to get back in it.
“We picked up our intensity in the fourth quarter,” Briggs said. “I think we could have won if we played like that for all four quarters.”
Sam Billimon added 13 for Truman and Wiley had 12.