When Sam Billimon ended the second quarter with a radar-like, 3-pointer from long range, Truman boys basketball coach Rod Briggs believed his Patriots were ready for a strong second half.
They trailed just 28-26 at the half and managed to keep the game close with standout Kaimen Lennox on the bench for all but three minutes of the first half after picking up two quick fouls.
But he was wrong.
“Boy, was I wrong,” Briggs said, managing a smile after Staley scored 45 second-half points to claim a 73-56 Suburban Large Seven victory.
“Some nights, you just don’t play well, and this was one of those nights. But I thought we did the impossible in the second half – we played worse with Kaimen back on the floor than we did without him in the first half.
“And that’s nothing against Kaimen. Everyone knows what a great player he is. We just didn’t play very well in the second half. We played with no consistency, and you have to give Staley a lot of credit for that.
“And the kid (guard Kuyo Gazo) came off the bench and scored 17 points. We sure didn’t see that coming.”
Neither did Staley coach Chris Neff, whose team improved to 7-2 and 1-0 in conference action.
“Byron was Byron,” Neff said, referring to Byron Alexander, the Northwest Missouri State University signee who scored a game-high 21 points.
“But Kuyu comes off the bench and scores 17. Rod didn’t see it coming, and neither did we.”
What Neff did see was a need to shake things up in the locker room at the half.
“We did not play very well the first half, and I know what kind of coach Rod Briggs is,” the Staley coach said. “He came to Truman four years ago, the same time I came to Staley.
“I have so much respect for him and his kids and we had to make some changes. Luckily, our guys paid attention and went and did what we talked about at the half, which makes a coach feel pretty good.”
Back-to-back layups by Staley’s Kendrick Stone gave the Falcons a 47-35 lead with 2:40 left in the third period and the rout was on.
“It’s disappointing because we’re a better team that we showed tonight,” said Lennox, who did not commit another foul in the game and finished with 13 points. “Not making any excuses, but I didn’t think I was going to sit so much of the first half, and it was actually kind of hard to get back into the flow of the game. You have so much adrenaline, and then you sit and you do your best to get it back, but it just came back too late.”
He scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Billimon – who finished with a team-high 16 points and drilled long 3-pointers at the end of both the first and second quarters to keep it close – said the Patriots are going to be fine.
“Coach has a saying, and it applies to a game like this,” Billimon said after the Patriots dropped to 7-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference. “It’s the three Fs – ‘Flush it. Fix it. Forget it.’
“We’re going to get back to the gym, work hard and go out and do everything we can to win our next game.”