The members of the Truman High School girls basketball team presented coach Steve Cassity with a special birthday gift Monday night – a 35-24 Suburban Large Seven victory over visiting St. Joseph Central.

“It wasn’t a pretty win, but it was a win, and we wanted to win on Coach’s birthday,” said senior Deon Monroe, who grabbed 14 rebounds and added eight points in the defensive masterpiece.

“There are some games you just have to win when you don’t play well, and this was one of them. But that guy – he didn’t even tell us it was his birthday. We heard it over the announcements at school. So we didn’t have time to get him a present or anything, so we figured we better win tonight.”

Cassity chuckled when the comments of his senior standout were relayed his way.

“After a while, you quit counting them,” said Cassity, who turned 53 Monday night. “Tonight, we found a way to get the job done.

“They are so much bigger than we were, and Deon and our other players just kept attacking them. It was one of those gritty wins you appreciate. Some nights, you scored 35 points and manage to find a way to win.

“This was one of those nights, and it was a pretty good birthday present. … They’ve been pretty good to me on my birthday. I don’t ever remember losing a game on my birthday,” added Cassity, whose Patriots are now 7-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play and ranked ninth in the Class 5 state coaches poll.

There were early indications that the game was going to be a defensive-dominated game as Truman led 4-3 after one period and 11-8 at halftime.

“There wasn’t a lot of scoring,” Monroe said, “and we really hurt ourselves at the free throw line. We’ve struggled from the line this year, but we hit nine free throws in the fourth quarter to win it.”

Truman was just 16 of 33 from the line, but seniors Abby Whiting and Monroe each hit three free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.

“We need to do better from the line, no doubt about it,” Cassity said, “but tonight we got it done. And Urya’ (Williams) was just fearless tonight. They are such a big strong team, and just kept driving the lane.”

Williams, one of three freshmen to start for the Patriots, finished with 10 points and was the only player on either team to reach double figures in scoring.

“They were big, that’s for sure, and we did our best to keep their big girl (6-foot-2 Lauren Eiman) away from the basket,” William said. “We double-teamed her and really played good keep-away defense against her and she didn’t score a point.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of – holding a really good team like Central to just 24 points.”

The 6-4, 1-1 Indians (6-4, 1-1) were led by Ella Moody, who scored eight points.