With the game on the line and the ball in his hands at the free throw line, Truman senior standout Kaimen Lennox eyed the basket and hit nothing but net on two dramatic free throws.
With just one second left, the two free throws resulted in a 57-55 fifth place victory over Lee’s Summit in the Patterson Division consolation final of the William Jewell Holiday Classic early Monday morning at the Mabee Center in Liberty.
“We wanted Kaimen to have the ball,” said teammate Jeilel Phillps, who carried the fifth-place trophy out of the locker room with a big grin on his face. “We knew Kaimen was going to hit those throws and I was going to be carrying another trophy home this season.
“I’m the trophy man on this team.”
While coach Rod Briggs was disappointed his team could never expand a nine-point second half lead, he was thrilled with the resiliency his 7-2 Patriots showed. And, like Phillips, he wanted the ball in Lennox’s hands at the end of the game.
Following a layup by the Tigers’ Felix Anudike that knotted the score at 55-all with 55 seconds left, the Patriots went to a four-corner offense, running valuable time off the clock.
Briggs called timeout with 15 seconds left, and when play resumed, Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little ordered his team to go after the ball because the Tigers still had two fouls to give before the bonus. The Tigers were called for two quick fouls, which set up the exciting final 11 seconds.
“Our guys did a great job clearing it out inside to give Kaimern a clear path to the basket,” Briggs said. “At the end of the quarter, we took an ill-advised shot and missed a couple of rebounds, but in the end, we had the ball in the right player’s hands to win the game.
“And I think everyone knew that Kaimen was going to take the last shot.”
Lennox took a short jump shot from the paint with one second left and drew the foul.
“When I went to the line, I knew I was going to hit both free throws,” said Lennox, who led the Patriots with 21 points after not scoring in the first quarter. “I felt good, I felt confident and when I hit that first free throw I knew I was going to hit the second one too.”
While the Tigers had a major height advantage – and were able to claw their way back into the game with Anudike scoring 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter – Lennox said the Patriots banded together and were able to claim the hard-fought win.
“This was a team win for sure,” Lennox said. “Those guys were huge and we were able to keep them out of the paint for most of the game, but they scored a lot of layups, especially in the fourth quarter.
“But we overcame all the adversity and got a big win. We’re now ready for the rest of the season. It was big for us to come up here and get two wins a trophy. We have a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the season.”
The Tigers held just a 32-28 rebounding edge with Anudike grabbing a team high eight. Truman’s Macio Moananu scored just one point, but grabbed a team-high eight boards for the Patriots.
“I thought we did a nice job rebounding this morning,” Briggs said. “This was just a good team win, one we can build on the rest of the season.”
Sam Billimon scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half for Truman and Phillips added 10 points, going head to head with Anudike and his teammates all morning in the paint.
Amari Kemp hit four 3-pointers to finish with 12 for the Tigers.