Truman's new lineup excels in overtime

Blue Springs transfer Najee Williams leads way for Patriots in season opener

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

The Truman boys basketball team fielded a brand-new team in its 2020-21 season opener.

The Patriots lost all five starters from the 2019-20 team that finished 16-10, and pretty much all of their rotation players except for senior forward Max Black and and junior forward Runey Hernandez, both of whom came off the bench for the most part.

They will have a limited number of players with varsity experience, but it helps that they have Blue Springs transfer Najee Williams, who came to Truman last year but was ineligible to play.

The senior played for the Wildcats his sophomore year and took a year off before putting up a game-high 20 points in Monday’s 71-62 overtime win over Lee’s Summit West in the first round of the third annual Phog Allen Invitational.

“We have been waiting on him since last year,” Black said of Williams. “He’s finally here and electrifying.”

Williams, a 6-foot-4 guard, showed off his athleticism and play-making ability. He even made a highlight-reel dunk in the second period, when he leaped above Chans McGrew and slammed one home from the baseline. He also scored six of his team’s 14 points in overtime.

“I thought that I was going to get a charge,” Williams said of the dunk. “I just had to jump over him.”

These types of performances are something that Truman coach Rod Briggs expects from his new addition.

“He was a little amped up and scored 20 today,” Briggs said. “He can play even better than he did today. I think he’s got a lot more upside in him than he did tonight.”

The senior got a lot of help from reserve senior forward Quincy Potts. More known for his football prowess, Potts showed that he could be an asset on the hardwood, too, scoring 15 points off the bench and playing a big role in overtime. His defense and two big layups helped spark a 12-2 run that allowed Truman (1-0) to run away with the extra period.

“It felt great to have teammates who have my back,” Potts said. “This is my first time playing varsity, so this is a great first game.”

Added Briggs: “He fills a good role for us. He does all the simple stuff really well. He’s got a good motor and he’s going to play good defense and rebound.”

Black was a huge factor as well, scoring four of his 13 points in overtime and coming up with some key rebounds and free throws in a close fourth period. His four free throws late in overtime helped ensure the win.

“He did what I expect a senior to do,” Briggs said of Black. “He makes big plays for us.”

Truman led 12-7 at the end of the first period and took a 30-19 lead at halftime thanks to a 16-7 run led by seven points from Potts and Williams’ dunk, which led to a three-point play.

However, West made a furious comeback in the third thanks to a strong defense that held Truman to 4-of-14 shooting from the field. The Titans kept chipping away at the lead until a late 3-pointer from West guard Luke Jordan put the Titans ahead 40-39 entering the fourth period.

“We just hit a lull in the third quarter,” Briggs said. “It’s like it was our bed time and we were ready to go to sleep.”

West seemed like it was taking control early in the fourth after a putback from forward Corbin Yows made it 45-39. But Truman slowly chipped away until Black tied it at 47 with a putback layup that led to a three-point play.

The Titans had a couple of three-point leads late, but Truman came back to take a 55-54 lead on a pair of free throws from Black with 2 minutes left.

After Truman got a stop, Williams hit a pair of free throws to make it 57-54. However, West’s Chaz Watson sank a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to send it to overtime after Truman and West missed 3-pointers on their final possessions of regulation.

From there, it was all Patriots.

“At first we were just go, go, go and we turned the ball over,” Williams said of the third period. “We just had to slow things down.

“I think this team has a chance to be even better than last year.”

Added Black: “We’ve got guys like Quincy Potts off the bench who can score. I think he missed just one shot. He played great. We have a lot of guys who can make plays.

“We all trust each other. We’re always throwing dimes in practice.”

The Patriots advance to Wednesday's 5:30 p.m. semifinal against Raytown, a 60-55 overtime winner over Park Hill South.