Truman boys basketball coach Rod Briggs was not pleased with the way his team played defense in Thursday’s first-round game in the Phog Allen Invitational at William Chrisman High School.
The Patriots surrendered 41 first-half points and struggled to keep Camdenton out of the paint. However, Truman got out on the fastbreak early and often in a 75-64 win.
Truman will play Lee’s Summit North in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. today.
Truman forced 21 turnovers and scored 18 points on the fast break. Several of its points came on driving layups and crisp passing to players cutting to the basket.
“We just passed out of their press and it was layup city,” Briggs said. “We turned it over way more than what we did against presses in practice. We’re fortunate that we made some layups and got some easy baskets because we certainly didn’t run much half-court offense. We didn’t play very good half-court defense either.”
Added senior Don Edmondson: “The ball movement was really good. Everybody stepped up at some point in the game. We played great on offense.”
Through the first three quarters, it was a back-and-forth contest. There were eight lead changes in the first quarter, and Truman junior Jeilel Phillips helped keep his team afloat with eight of his 14 points, as the Patriots (1-0) trailed 20-18.
Truman began the second period on a 15-4 run capped by a free-throw line jumper from Cardell Hall Jr. to put the Patriots ahead 33-24. However, the Lakers ended the first half on a 12-4 run following a Keegan Ford’s 3-pointer, as Truman clung to a 42-41 halftime lead.
“Giving up 41 points in the first half will definitely give a coach gray hairs,” Briggs said. “We were disappointed in our defense in the first half. But we only gave up 23 points in the second half, so that’s good.”
The seesaw battle continued in the third period. Camdenton was either tied or had a two-point lead for most of the quarter. However, Edmondson scored eight of his 21 points., including a big 3-pointer from the left corner off a driving dish from junior Kaimen Lennox. That play allowed Truman go into the fourth up 57-56.
“We feel like we can beat any team on any given night, we just have to step it up defensively,” Edmondson said.
The Patriots and Lakers traded the lead six times early in the fourth before a Phillips’ fast-break layup off an assist from junior Sam Billimon gave Truman the lead for good at 63-62. But the biggest play of the game may have come from Lennox. Truman had a 67-64 lead when the junior drove to the basket. He was met with a double team in the paint, but he used a Euro-step to split the defenders and he banked in a left-handed layup and drew the foul. All game long, Lennox drove to the basket at will. He had a game-high 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting, with 20 of those coming in the paint.
“I was just trying to get a quick bucket to extend the lead because they kept pressing,” Lennox said. “We just kept turning the ball over.”
Added Briggs: “In the half-court offense, I think he was the only one getting to the rim.”
The win was the first time in Briggs’ three-year tenure with Truman that his team won a season opener. It was a much needed confidence booster after having a combined six wins in the last two years.
“We feel really good about that,” Briggs said of starting 1-0. “We feel like we have a good team. We just have a lot of things to get better at.”
Added Lennox: “After a game last year, everyone would get used to (a loss). Now we can make a bigger impact and we have more guys to show out. We want to put Truman on the map.”