The Truman High School boys basketball team showed plenty of grit Tuesday night at home.
But the visiting Staley Falcons displayed skill, talent and a physical style of play that left coach Rod Briggs’ Patriots searching for answers following a 54-40 Suburban Large Seven loss.
The Falcons soared early and often, taking a 9-0 first-quarter lead and fending off several Patriot comeback attempts.
Truman used a 9-2 run to cut their deficit to 19-16 at 2:41 of the second quarter, after trailing 15-5 at the end of the first period.
Their last gasp attempt to run down the Falcons came at 4:56 of the fourth quarter when the Patriots scored the first seven points to trail 42-34, but the Falcons surged to claim the road win.
“They’re so good, you can’t afford to get down to them early,” Truman forward Kaimen Lennox said of the Falcons, ranked seventh in the state in the Class 5 coaches poll. “You especially can’t afford to get down 9-0. I could sense something wasn’t right in warmups. We were like lackadaisical, just kind of going through the motions.
“And I’m talking about myself, too. I’m not pointing any fingers, we just didn’t play well tonight and if you don’t play well against a team like Staley they’re going to beat you, and beat you bad, like they did tonight.”
When asked about his team’s frequent comebacks, Lennox added, “When you make a run, against a physical team like Staley, it can take a lot out of you. You use so much energy that it makes it tough to play your game because you leave it all on the court.”
Perhaps that is why Staley went on an 8-0 run after the Patriots’ second period surge and finished the game with a 12-6 advantage, scoring six of those points at the free throw line.
The Falcons (15-4, 6-1) led 29-17 at halftime and 40-27 going into the fourth quarter.
“We play up in St. Joe Friday,” said Lennox, who scored a team-high 15 points, “and we have to take care of business up there. We’re just a game behind them in the conference and we still have a legit chance to win or share a conference championship.”
His teammate, guard Cam Robbins, agreed.
“We’ve gotta take care of the ball, play with more intensity and do the things in the game that we work on in practice,” said Robbins, who had three steals that ignited those Patriot rallies. “They took it to us, and that’s not acceptable on our court. We need to work hard at practice tomorrow and get ready to go to St. Joseph for a big game Friday.”
Briggs said his team can expect a tough practice Wednesday.
“We need to really get after it, work on some things at our next practice,” said Briggs, whose Patriots fell to 13-6 overall and 5-2 in league play, with two conference losses to the Falcons.
“They are such a good team. They are physical and well-coached, and we managed to make a couple of runs, cutting it down to three in the second period and to single digits a couple of times in the second half. But runs like that expel so much energy, that we didn’t have enough energy to come all the way. And the way Staley played had a lot to do with that.”
Long after the game had ended Staley coach Chris Neff was talking up Lennox, who scored a team-high 15 points, to a college coach in the hallway outside of the gymnasium.
“The kid can do it all. We threw everything at him tonight just to try and slow him down,” Neff said. “I like that Truman team. They have Lennox and some other good players, and Rod does a great job with his kids. I’m really happy with the way our guys played tonight.
“Taking that big lead early in the game was huge, just huge.”
Byron Alexander scored a game-high 17 points for Staley and Kendrick Stone added 13.