Twice in its non-conference home game against Blue Springs South on Wednesday, the Truman Patriots allowed the Jaguars pull within one point. And twice the Patriots responded with runs of 6-0 and 12-6 to hold the Jaguars at bay in Truman’s 61-49 win.
The hallmark of any good team like Truman – ranked 10th in the state in Class 5 and trying to make a run deep into the state playoffs – is the ability to handle adversity.
Twice in its non-conference home game against Blue Springs South on Wednesday, the Patriots allowed the Jaguars pull within one point. And twice the Patriots responded with runs of 6-0 and 12-6 to hold the Jaguars at bay in Truman’s 61-49 win.
Truman also did it without one of its best players, Antonio Winn, who didn’t play because of what coach Billy Guinnee described “as a school-related matter that I cannot comment on.”
“I was really proud of how well they played,” Guinnee said. “Antonio is a big part of our team, and I was proud of how they played without him.”
The Patriots (16-2) jumped out to a 14-8 lead on a Zach Large 3-point bucket just before the end of the first quarter. Blue Springs South cut the lead to 20-19 on a long 3-pointer by Brandon Murillo with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the second quarter.
Murillo, who was hounded by Large all night, finished with just six points. His first basket came with Large on the bench, and it prompted Guinnee to insert Large back into the lineup. With Large back on the floor, Truman responded with the 6-0 run to take a seven-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Large began the spurt by leading a two-on-one fast break with junior guard Darrien Harris, who finished the nifty give-and-go with a layup. Large then drained another 3-point bucket with less than 40 seconds left in the half.
A pair of Kyle Gehrs free throws gave Truman a 26-19 lead at the break.
Large, who hit four 3-pointers on the night, led Truman with 23 points and Harris finished with 22.
Large said he felt like his shooting was on against the Jaguars (8-7) but said he was more proud of his defensive effort against Murillo.
“I helped out (a teammate) once and he hit a three(-point shot),” Large said. “After that, I didn’t even try to help anymore.”
Large added that he has worked hard to improve his defense, and his play against the hot-shooting Murillo – who scored 17 points and knocked down three 3-pointers in the Jaguars’ 52-50 win over Lee’s Summit on Tuesday – proved that.
“I’ve been putting a lot more effort into defense this year,” Large said. “I’ve been really trying to make sure I stop my guy and just get the job done. If I score a whole bunch of points and the guy I’m guarding scores a whole bunch of points, too, it doesn’t matter what I scored.”
Despite spotty scoring from Murillo and a hard-pressed 15 points from junior forward Shawn Meyer, the Jags refused to wilt.
Led by sophomore point guard D.J. Booker, the Jaguars cut Truman’s lead to 30-29 with 2:46 to go in the third quarter.
The Patriots then went on the 12-6 run over the next three minutes for a 42-35 advantage. From there, the Patriots outscored the Jaguars 19-14 the rest of the way to earn the victory.
“They were very physical,” Jaguars coach Jimmy Cain said of the Patriots. “They took us out of our offense for the most part. Our guards had a hard time on the perimeter with the ball because they kind of imposed their will on us defensively. We had a hard time getting inside and putting it on the rim.”
Booker, who scored 13 points, said the Jaguars were a bit off-kilter on offense.
“We just didn’t pull together as a team tonight,” Booker said. “We just weren’t as tuned in as we normally are, but we’ll bounce back next time.”
Guinnee was happy with the play of starting center Jacob Morefield and backup center Luke Deacy. Morefield didn’t score a point, but his interior defense – along with Deacy’s – was instrumental in keeping Meyer in check.
Deacy scored just four points, but added four blocked shots and a steal.
“We were just trying to front him and keep him from catching the ball,” Deacy said of the defensive strategy against Meyer.