It took a while, but Truman finally made its senior night interesting. Not successful, but interesting.
Trailing most of the night by double digits, the Patriots fought tooth and nail against Park Hill South late in the fourth quarter. A double-digit deficit dwindled to three points, but no further.
Park Hill South hung on, claimed a 59-54 victory Friday night and put a damper on a night dedicated to Truman’s seven seniors.
“It’s like mixed emotions right now,” said Truman guard Kaimen Lennox, the biggest name among those seven seniors. “We lose a game like this and it’s hitting me hard because it’s our last game here.”
It was a bittersweet night for Lennox, who struggled with his Truman teammates to find his shot early before finishing with 20 points. Half of those points came in the fourth quarter, and they all played a role in Truman’s near-comeback.
Truman (15-9, 6-5 Suburban Large Seven) trailed 46-32 in the opening minutes of the third quarter, its largest deficit of the night. The Patriots were still down 54-43 with 1:30 left to play when Lennox dunked off a Runey Hernandez steal and later nailed a jumper from the lane.
The Patriots then forced a Park Hill South turnover setting up a putback and-one by Sam Billimon, who drew 6-foot-9 forward Dylan Brougham’s fourth foul. Billimon made the free throw, and suddenly Truman was within 55-52.
Lennox almost made a steal on Park Hill South’s next possession, but the Panthers (18-6, 7-4) steadied themselves down the stretch and went 4 of 4 from the line in the final seconds.
“I give our guys credit for making a game of it at the end,” Truman coach Rod Briggs said. “We played the end of the game about as good as you could.”
Briggs couldn’t say the same about the beginning of the game. Truman never led after the opening minutes and found itself down 29-20 by halftime. Lennox missed 8 of his first 10 shots, while Park Hill South’s Messias Dockery scored the Patriots early. Dockery scored nine of his team-high 18 points in the first half.
Still, Truman had opportunities to turn things around in the third quarter as its defense forced five Panther turnovers. The Patriots did cut a 38-25 deficit down to 38-32 after a Lennox conventional three-point play, but Dockery answered with a basket and a 3-pointer that put the Panthers up 43-32 at the end of the quarter.
“We just missed a lot of easy shots when we had the opportunity,” Briggs said. “There was a stretch in the third quarter when we were making stops but we weren’t scoring. I think if we could have got more baskets in that little period I think we could have caught back up.”
But the Patriots couldn’t. That spoiled senior night, but it didn’t spoil Truman’s outlook as the postseason nears.
“We’ve still got a lot of basketball ahead of us,” Briggs said.