Darren Horning didn’t score a bushel of points for Fort Osage Friday night. On a night when the Indians struggled to get baskets, he was hardly alone.
But what Horning lacked in offensive quantity, he more than made up for in quality. Horning’s six points all came in the fourth quarter, and they all played a role in helping Fort Osage pull out a 50-44 victory over Raymore-Peculiar in the Nelson Division semifinals of the William Jewell Holiday Classic.
Fort Osage (7-2) will play defending Class 4 state champion Grandview at 5:30 p.m. tonight for the division title at the Mabee Center on the William Jewell campus. In 11 previous appearances of the 39-year-old Classic, the Indians have never won a tournament title.
Fort Osage had to work hard, and overcome a chilly night of shooting, to earn the privilege. The Indians made just 18 of 45 shots from the field (40 percent) and missed half of their 20 free throws.
“Shots weren’t really falling at all,” said Horning, a 6-foot-1 senior guard. “We just had to keep on trying, keep on pushing throughout the floor. We were just having an off night.”
Even with the shots not falling, Fort Osage still led most of the game and built a quick 34-24 advantage early in the fourth quarter. But Ray-Pec (6-3) closed that gap quickly and trailed 41-38 in the final three minutes.
That’s when Horning scored his first basket on a floater from the lane. After Ray-Pec missed a three, he sprinted down court and scored again on a reverse layup after receiving a sharp pass from Triston Turner for a 45-38 lead with just under two minutes to play.
His final two points, on free throws with 14.1 seconds left, sealed the victory.
“Darren’s a kid that’s been playing his (rear) off all year long,” Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson said. “He can score. He hasn’t been asked to do that but then he stepped up tonight and hit those big buckets down the stretch.”
Fort Osage outscored Ray-Pec 22-20 in the final period, which nearly doubled the point total for both teams. Ray-Pec struggled even more from the floor, especially after Fort Osage turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter. The Panthers finished 14-for 43 from the field (32.6 percent), including 3-for-16 from 3-point range.
“We wanted to put more pressure on them,” Wilson said. “They’ve got some size and they can run and they can score in multiple ways. We needed to score and we needed to put our pressure on them which we were able to do a little bit.”
Fort Osage never trailed after going up 14-7 in the first quarter and built a 20-10 lead midway through a second quarter in which few shots fell for either team. In the second quarter, Ray-Pec could only managed a three-pointer and two free throws from Kian Scroggins, the only Panther who found the basket most of the game.
Scroggins, a 6-foot-7 junior forward/center, led all scorers with 21 points.
Still, Fort Osage entered halftime with a 20-12 lead and a 28-24 advantage after three quarters, even as the Indians struggled to find points.
“They try to take you out of your game plan, and they were able to do that,” Wilson said. “We really wanted to get up and down the floor more and they were able to take us out of that.”
Fort Osage guard Ty Baker, who scored a game-high 19 points in the Indians’ win over Winnetonka in Wednesday’s tourney opener, led the Indians again with 12 points. Jared Larson, who had nine points, was the only other Indian close to double figures.