Jeilel Phillips etched his name into the Truman book of boys basketball lore with a performance for the ages in the biggest game of his high school career.
With his team’s offense on life support, Phillips scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a seven-point span that helped Truman pad a 31-28 lead to a 38-28 advantage with 4:05 left in the Three Trails Trophy contest between the two Noland Road rivals.
The end result was Phillips and his jubilant teammates holding the trophy high at center court of a standing-room-only crowd at William Chrisman High School Friday night following a 51-44 victory over the host Bears.
“My first win against Chrisman in four years, Coach’s first win against Chrisman – everyone’s first win against Chrisman over the last four years – and it feels so good,” Phillips said.
When someone asked Truman coach Rod Briggs if Phillips would be allowed to take the trophy home for the weekend, Briggs quipped, “He’d probably never let it out of his sight. He deserves to take it home – everyone deserves to take it home. After struggling the first half offensively, the guys really turned it up the second half.”
Briggs made offensive adjustments at halftime as his Patriots scored just four points in the first quarter and trailed 18-14 at halftime.
“Coach wanted to work the ball inside to me, and I knew I had to respond,” Phillips said. “I was frustrated offensively the first half – we were all frustrated – and Coach worked on some things at the half, made some adjustments and we were like a different team the second half. We just began to feel it.”
Truman senior guard Kaimen Lennox, after being held to one basket in the first half, scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the third quarter.
“Kaimen got into it – but he always gets into it offensively – and we all did our thing,” Phillips said. “I just wish I could come up with the words to tell you how great this feels. We don’t want this night to end.”
Lennox, one of the premier offensive players in the metro area, also showed his defensive prowess against the Bears as he held scoring leader Isaiah Jackson – who hit the game-winning overtime shot in a 50-48 win over the Patriots a week ago in the championship game of the Phog Allen Invitational – to just three points.
“Isaiah and I were going at each other defensively,” Lennox said. “He shut me down in the first half, but we made some adjustments and I was able to get some shots off in the second half, especially the third quarter.”
Lennox hit a long-range 3-pointer at 4:55 of the third period to give the Patriots their first lead at 23-21. They managed to maintain that lead the remainder of the game.
A rim-shaking dunk with 41 seconds left in the third period opened the lead to 33-26 and it got as high as 10 points. But the Bears’ Marcus Wigfall scored 10 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to keep things interesting.
“Jeilel really came up big tonight,” Lennox said as he carried the trophy into the Chrisman gym, which was filled with students and fans who wanted to congratulate the 5-1 Patriots. “We struggled early offensively and we got it going in the second half, and Jeilel had the monster fourth quarter. That was fun to watch.”
As his players filed out of the makeshift locker room at Chrisman, Briggs just smiled and soaked in the excitement.
“We were playing so well defensively the first half, but I didn’t know if we were ever going to get our offense going,” Briggs said. “Then we made some adjustments, got better spacing the second half and Kaimen got it going in the third quarter and Jeiel had the big fourth quarter.
“This is a big win for everyone.”
Alex Calhoun and Zachariah Rowe finished with nine points each for the Bears, who dropped to 5-2 with their second straight loss after being ranked fifth in the Class 5 state coaches poll.