Truman girls coach Steve Cassity and his players weren’t all smiles after clinching a share of the Suburban Big Six championship with a 51-46 win over Raytown Wednesday.
According to Cassity and guard Deon Monroe and Brodi Byrd, the team didn’t play up to par in its regular-season finale.
“I think we knew coming in (Raytown) was going to be playing with some emotion and energy tonight,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said. “I didn’t think we played with a lot of energy and confidence. I thought we got beat to loose balls and some rebounds. That’s what bothers me the most.”
After leading 30-19 at halftime, Raytown stormed back to win the third quarter 18-10 to go into the fourth down 40-37. The Blue Jays fell behind by 11 again midway through the fourth but came back to make it close at the end and rebounding had a lot to do with it as they outrebounded the Patriots 25-20.
The lineup Truman has had to play partially played a factor into that. With 6-footers Jewel Hart out with a leg injury and Rosie Braley out with a concussion, that’s forced Truman to play a five-guard lineup.
That has changed the game on both sides of the floor for the Patriots (18-7, 8-2). They rely a little bit more on the 3-pointer and don’t have anyone post up smaller players. On Wednesday, the Patriots tallest player was 5-foot-9 Erin Davis. And to make things even more challenging, all five starters played all 32 minutes. But Cassity and his players weren’t about to use that as an excuse.
“We would like to have the size, but we don’t, and we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” Cassity said. “They can rebound the ball against any competition. I think when you’re smaller you just have to play with a little more energy and play a little bit harder. Honestly, we gave up some offensive rebounds to players no bigger than us.
“We played some zone so we could save our legs some, and keep what size we do have near the rim. We’ve had to rely on that some since our bigs have been out. I think our conditioning is there.”
Added Monroe, who scored 19 points: “All of us might get tired, but we just have to push through.”
On defense, Truman leaned on the 2-3 zone, but that opened up opportunities for the Blue Jays on the perimeter as they made eight shots from behind the 3-point line. But the Patriots just did enough to withstand the sharpshooting from Raytown and squeak out a win to ensure at least a tie with Park Hill South.
“(Winning conference) shows how good we are, but we still have some things we need to improve,” said Byrd, who had a game-best 20 points. “I honestly think we should have went undefeated in conference.
“We need to come back stronger, especially for districts.”
There were four lead changes and two one tie in the first quarter, while Truman took a 14-12 lead. Byrd and Monroe then combined for 12 points in the second period to take a 30-19 halftime lead.
Raytown took advantage of Truman’s zone defense in the third by connecting on four 3-pointers. A driving floater from Nia Thomas, who had a team-high 14 points, at the end of the period made it a 3-point game going into the final period.
Truman countered with a 9-1 run to start the fourth, fueled by four points each from Byrd and Monroe to make it 49-38, and that cushion was enough for the Patriots to cling to their lead.