With star guard Kaimen Lennox nursing a sore back, the Truman boys basketball team needed someone to step up and help the offense during the consolation semifinals of the 40th annual William Jewell High School Holiday Classic.
Enter senior Macio Moananu.
Moananu, a forward, said he had one of his best games of his high school career, scoring 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field in a 60-51 win over Blue Springs in the Patterson Division bracket Friday at the Mabee Center in Liberty.
The Patriots (6-2) will play for fifth place when they take on Lee’s Summit at 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Moananu, who also tallied four rebounds, two assists, one block and three steals, said he made it a point to shoot the ball more coming into the game against the Wildcats (5-4).
“My teammates were telling me to be more aggressive, because in the last game I only had three points,” Moananu said.
Truman coach Rod Briggs said the performance from Monanu was much needed, especially after Truman shot 32 percent the night before in a 61-59 overtime loss to Grandview Christian in the first round.
“We needed someone to step up after last night, shooting the ball so poorly,” Briggs said. “Macio stepped up and he’s had a lot of good games early. He had three games where he didn’t score as much.
“I liked his mindset today. He was a lot more aggressive and finishing at the rim.”
Truman shot the ball much better against Blue Springs, making 51.2 percent of their shots. Lennox helped that cause, shooting 7 of 14 from the floor and scoring a game-best 19 points and adding four steals despite having a sore back.
“I took a lot of Advil and tried to fight through it,” said Lennox, who got a scholarship offer from William Jewell College at the tournament. “We finished around the basket better. We got the ball to our shooters. We missed a lot of layups (Thursday).”
Added Briggs: “(The back injury) weighed him down a little bit, but I am proud of him.”
Senior guard Caleb Allen, who earned his first varsity start after scoring eight points in seven minutes against Grandview Christian, was also a big contributor. He scored eight points and grabbed a team-high five rebounds.
“Caleb is a team-first guy,” Briggs said. “Sometimes he didn’t get as much playing time. He earned more playing time after what he did (Thursday) and he took advantage of it.”
Truman took a 11-10 lead after the first period and was ahead at halftime 25-22. Blue Springs took the lead on a couple of occasions in the second half, but Truman ended it on a 6-0 run to take the lead for good.
Truman led by as many as 11 points when Moananu spun around a defender and made a tough layup to make it 40-29 late in the third period. But a three from Blue Springs senior Cooper Willich and a putback layup from junior Xavier Loyd made it 40-34 going into the final period.
The Wildcats eventually cut the lead to 48-44 following a baseline jumper from sophomore Braden Appelhans and a little later on a driving layup from Mike Harrison (50-46), but Truman made 9 of its last 10 free throws late to close out the win.
“Truman played a really good game and took us out of some things that we wanted to do,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “They did a good job on Braden Appelhans (who had 5 points after scoring 20 in a loss to Ruskin Thursday). He struggled to get touches tonight.
“We had 16 turnovers and just eight assists. It’s tough to win ball games like that.”
Blue Springs was able to keep it close despite starting forward Eli Wingert being out for the season with a shoulder injury and forward Ikenna Ezeogu missing the game with the flu.
“(Ezeogu) tried to play through it last night and he could barely survive,” Jones said. “I told his mom to keep him at home. And Cooper was dealing with a bad ankle and this was his first game back.”
Wildcat sophomore guard Kyle Bruce led the team with 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting and Loyd added 10.