A night of heart-stopping district basketball ended at Truman High School Thursday night as Raytown’s Aaron Franklin took a perfect pass from Aubrey Martin, sliced the Truman defense and hit the game-winning basket to give the Blue Jays a 55-54 overtime victory.
With 22 seconds left in overtime, Truman junior Kaimen Lennox, who led all scorers with 23 points, hit one of two free throws to give the Patriots a 54-53 lead.
The Patriots’ Samuel Billimon then came away with a big steal, and was fouled. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Blue Jays had the ball with just nine seconds left in the game.
Rather than call a timeout, Raytown coach Cody Buford showed the type of confidence that inspires a team, and let his players run the show.
Martin threw a precision pass to Franklin, who hit the layup at the buzzer.
“It was all Aubrey,” Franklin said, “he got me the ball. That was the tough part. All I had to do was hit that layup.”
Which came as no surprise to Buford.
“We work on those scenarios all the time in practice,” said Buford, whose 20-6 Blue Jays meet Blue Springs South (17-8) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the title game. “Coach (Anthony) Morgan and Coach (Scott) Spellman work on those last second, last minute plays so it just comes second nature to our guys.
“You saw how they reacted. There was no panic, they just went down and got the job done. They’re a great group of young men, and that’s what makes this season so special. You like to see young men like we have on our team succeed.”
For one quarter, it looked like the Blue Jays might run away with the district semifinal game as they took a 20-11 lead into the second quarter.
“It took awhile for us to play our game,” said Lennox, who hit three consecutive 3-point baskets in the second period. “We finally started playing our game, feeling comfortable out there, but we just didn’t have quite enough to get a win.
“A lot of us are coming back, but we wanted to win this for Don (Edmondson and senior Cardell Hall Jr.). We’re all coming back next year, but they won’t be back, and that’s what makes tonight so tough.”
Edmondson added nine points in second quarter on two 3-pointers and an and-one layup as the score was tied 29-all going into the half.
“I’m so proud of what we have accomplished the last three years and how far our program has come,” said Edmondson, who finished with 14 points. “I’m going to come back next year and watch the guys play – and hopefully watch them win a district title.”
Truman (13-13) had the ball in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, but Desmond Hutson blocked Lennox’s shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
It was Hutson who hit two late free throws to tie the game and then scored 12 in overtime to lead Raytown to a victory over Chrisman and help the Blue Jays clinch a conference championship two weeks ago.
“After tonight, I’m probably not the most popular guy in Independence,” joked Buford, who was 3-0 against Chrisman this season. “You have to give it to Truman. We got that early lead and they kept fighting.
“I told our guys they could shoot – and they proved it tonight. Edmondson and Lennox are great players. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Long after the game was over, Truman coach Rod Briggs sat as his desk in the Patriots locker room and managed a smile.
“I’m so proud of how far we have come the past few years,” Briggs said. “When you make a lot of threes, you can come back from an early deficit and Kaimen and Don made some big shots in the second quarter to help us come back.
“You have to give credit to Raytown for finding a way to win – that was a perfect pass to (Franklin) and he made a textbook layup.
“But we have a lot of guys back next year and we’re all excited about the future of this program.”
Hutson led the Blue Jays with 16 points. Franklin finished with 12.