On a night of shooting stars, none shone brighter than Ben Palacios.
Palacios, the 6-foot-5 all-state senior from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic, buried threes, drove the lane and hit from everywhere in between. So did teammate Anthony Holden. Ditto for Jaden Monday and Caleb Tanis of Van Horn.
None of them though could match Palacios, whose career-high 40 points topped them all and led St. Michael to a 91-77 victory over the Falcons in the semifinals of the Grain Valley Sonic Showdown.
Palacios, an all-state player for the Guardians last season, showed why he’s averaging over 20 points a game this year. He not only nailed five of St. Michael’s 10 3-pointers, he also powered the lane for shots too. And he made 5 of 8 free throws for good measure.
“We shared the ball really well,” Palacios said. “Several of our guys got double digits, which was nice. We just had fun playing with each other.”
St. Michael (14-4) got another 24 points and three 3-pointers from 6-4 senior Holden, and the Guardians needed them to offset Van Horn’s high-scoring combo. Tanis scored 24 points, and Monday eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career with 30.
But this night would belong to Palacios. With St. Michael down 26-25 early in the second quarter, he popped three consecutive 3-pointers to start a 15-3 spurt that put the Guardians ahead for good. St. Michael led 43-29 at halftime and never let Van Horn (10-8) get back within single digits.
“I thought we played well tonight,” St. Michael coach Mark Scanlon said. “I was really pleased with both aspects of the game. It bothered me that we couldn’t guard (Tanis) and (Monday) but overall we played pretty good.”
Monday sank back-to-back threes in the third quarter, the second one from NBA range, to put him over the 1,000-point mark. The 6-foot point guard now has 1,011 career points, but Van Horn coach Max Sollars said Monday wasn’t in a mood to celebrate afterward.
“Our kids are so non-selfish,” Sollars said. “Jaden doesn’t want to celebrate – he wants to win. He thanked his teammates for allowing him to get that milestone and then he said he was ready to practice on Friday.”
Michael Haggerty also reached double figures with 10 points for St. Michael, which plays Platte County at 3:30 p.m. Saturday for the tournament championship.
Van Horn, which plays Grain Valley for third place 2 p.m. Saturday, also got 11 points from Brycen Dean.
PLATTE COUNTY 66, GRAIN VALLEY 52: Grain Valley coach Andy Herbert liked the fire and energy he saw from his Eagles in the second half. It just came a little too late.
After sleepwalking through the first two quarters of their semifinal against Platte County, Grain Valley sprang to life in the third. But they were already buried in a 21-point deficit, and that would prove too much to overcome in a 66-52 loss.
“The first half energy wasn’t good enough,” Herbert said. “We were just asleep for the first two quarters. We played extremely hard in the second half, but it was too little, too late at that point.”
Grain Valley (13-5) got outscored 23-9 in the second quarter by Platte County (9-7), which made 9 of 10 field goals in the period and drove the lane at will. A 15-1 run midway through the second quarter put the Pirates up 29-10 en route to a 33-17 halftime lead.
The Eagles, meanwhile, went 3 of 13 from the field in the second quarter and 6 of 22 in the half.
“They got up in us,” Grain Valley senior Josh Kilpatrick said. “They forced us to take tough shots and we panicked.”
Platte County pushed its lead to 38-17 before Grain Valley started clawing back in the third quarter. Full-court pressure defense rattled the Pirates, and the Eagles closed within 42-31 with a Kilpatrick and-one late in the quarter.
The Eagles got as close as 59-52 on back-to-back Kilpatrick threes and Cadon Matlon’s basket off a turnover with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter, but Platte County pulled away down the stretch.
“They responded the right way,” Herbert said. “But it’s easy to respond that way when you’re behind. If you play that way from the opening tip, you don’t have to do that.”
Kilpatrick finished with 22 points and Matlon added 16 to lead Grain Valley. Dylan Minshall led Platte County with 17 points.