There was one glaring weakness for the Truman girls basketball team as it headed into its Class 5 District 15 championship matchup against Liberty.
Without their 6-foot-1 forwards Rosie Braley and Jewel Hart, who were both out with injuries, that left the Patriots to again use a five-guard lineup against a team with some length like the Blue Jays.
Knowing that, Liberty went to a 2-3 zone and Truman struggled all day to find good shots against that defense in a 47-30 loss Saturday at Truman High School.
The tallest player on the floor for the Patriots was 5-foot-9 senior guard Erin Davis, while Liberty had four rotational players who were 5-foot-10 or taller.
That made Liberty’s 2-3 zone that much more effective and slowed down the pace of the ball movement for the Patriots.
“They usually had a couple of 6-footers out there or close to it,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said of Liberty. “They have a lot of length, so it pushed us off the 3-point line. It also makes you throw a lot of looping passes, so you don’t get the ball movement that you want. We also don’t have the true post play right now to stretch them out.”
The Blue Jays offense was powered by point guard Olivia Nelson and forward Kayel Newland, combined to shoot 90 percent (9-for-10) from the field and combine for 31 points.
“They shot wide-open jump shots,” Liberty head coach Stan Grosdidier said. “We really worked to get good shots. We would just reverse the ball a couple of times and we got wide-open looks. When you have good basketball players who are able to step into wide-open threes, they will usually make those.”
Despite the advantages Liberty had, Truman kept it close for the first three quarters. The Patriots led 12-11 at the end of the first quarter as they withstood a trio of 3-pointers from the Blue Jays and went on a 7-0 run capped by Brodi Byrd’s 3-pointer.
There were four lead changes and one tie in the second when Liberty went into halftime up 21-19, getting a boost from senior guard Mary Mason, who hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Truman guard Kaylie Simonds tied the game at 21 on the first possession in the third, but after a 3-pointer from Nelson, the Blue Jays led the rest of the way.
The Blue Jays went into the fourth ahead 29-23, and the Truman offense continued to struggle. Newland executed a drive-and-kick to Nelson, who sank a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it 37-25 with about 3 minutes left in the fourth, a shot that put a dagger in Truman’s chances to advance to the state tournament.
Cassity said he was proud of the way his team competed as it operated with just five players for most of the late part of the season and claimed a share of the Suburban Big Six Conference title.
“I am very proud of our kids,” Cassity said. “If you would have told me earlier in the year that we would lose Jewel in the first week of January and Rosie early in February, and played without those two bigs, I would have given you a much grimmer forecast than we got. But we won a share of the conference title, we played for a district championship, and we lost against very good teams all year. We played well considering the hand we were dealt with injuries.”
Sophomore guard Deon Monroe scored 14 points to lead Truman, which finished 19-8.