• Second half lifts Pats to 19th straight win, Middle Six lead

  • The Truman girls basketball team isn’t all that familiar with the concept of adversity.

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  • The Truman girls basketball team isn’t all that familiar with the concept of adversity.
    Given that the Class 5 No. 1-ranked Patriots won their first 18 games by an average of 22.4 points per contest and faced just one halftime deficit, they just haven’t been placed in too many hairy situations.
    But in Tuesday night’s game against Park Hill South – a matchup for the Suburban Middle Six Conference lead – the Pats finally got to show off their counterattack, withstanding some early blows from the ninth-ranked Panthers before storming to a 57-44 victory at Truman High School.
    The triumph was Truman’s 19th straight to start the season, matching a school record for consecutive wins set by the 1992-93 squad.
    That streak looked like it was in danger early, as the Panthers stunned Truman (19-0, 5-0 conference) with their high-pressure defense. The Pats turned the ball over six times in the first period as the teams traded four leads. South built its advantage to 20-14 in the second quarter before Abby Hix knocked down a 3-pointer and then closed the half by rebounding her own missed shot and hitting Sandra Chiles for a last-second layup to trim the deficit to 20-19.
    “We’ve only been down at halftime twice this year,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said. “Against Bishop Miege (a 46-38 win), we responded very well in the second half and we responded well this evening. ... This is a great group of kids that loves each other. I knew they’d respond.”
    Cassity’s confidence was justified as the Patriots made 13 of 15 shots from the field in the final two quarters and outscored South (17-3, 4-1) 22-12 in the third.
    After shooting just 1 of 6 in the first half, Becca Jonas got on a roll by knocking down four straight buckets during a 20-9 third-period run. The junior post player finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
    “Park Hill South’s a good defensive team,” Cassity said. “They apply a lot of pressure defensively and I think it took us a little while to adjust to their speed and aggressiveness. But I think coming out in the second half, we settled down a little bit and passed the ball a lot better and starting playing through the post a lot better. That’s kind of a prescription for us to be successful.”
    Senior Ashley Guenther also worked her way into the mix after sitting out the final four and a half minutes of the first half with two fouls. She scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the second half and tossed a couple of perfect passes from the high post to Jonas to set up point-blank layups during the team’s decisive third-quarter spurt.
    Kayla Harrell also notched 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, grabbed five rebounds and swiped three steals and Hix ended with 12 points. Madeline Homoly paced the Panthers with 14 points and nine boards and Samantha Roy finished with 11 points.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Patriots will still have to travel to South before they can clinch a conference crown, but with five regular-season games left the prospect of a perfect season is too large to ignore. Guenther said more students and teachers chat her up about the team during school than in previous seasons. Not that she minds.
    “It makes it more fun, actually,” said Guenther, who shot 7 of 8 from the field against the Panthers. “There’s more people at the games. It kind of adds to it all.”
    Cassity stressed the importance of focusing on each game and said he’s told the team he hasn’t even watched film of one of the Pats’ remaining opponents past Lee’s Summit West (Truman’s next game on Thursday at West).
    No doubt, a streak of this nature brings added pressure. But the Patriots are embracing that burden.
    “We try not to think about it too much,” Harrell said. “We know that every team is going to come out and give us their best shot, so we have to rise up to the challenge. I think we like the pressure. We like to take it on and know that we’ve got to play each game every day to win.”

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