Budding rivalry: Patriots storm by Falcons in second half

By Bill Althaus
Van Horn senior guard Jaden Monday, right, puts up a finger roll shot over Truman defenders Quincy Scott (20) and Quincy Potts (34) in Wednesday's game at Van Horn. Despite early foul trouble, Monday poured in 28 points, but it still wasn't enough to get past the Patriots, who claimed a 71-61 win.

There’s a new rivalry in Independence that has high school basketball fans begging for more, and only one of the schools is located on Noland Road.

While Noland Road rivals William Chrisman and Truman have been enjoying marquee matchups for decades, the new rivalry between the Patriots and host Van Horn Falcons lived up to all the preseason hype Wednesday night.

Truman’s “Terrific Trio” of Najee Williams, Runey Hernandez and Max Black were too much for Van Horn star Jaden Monday, who got in early foul trouble, as the Patriots used a strong second half to claim a 71-61 win in a game that was tied 33-all at halftime.

The high-flying Williams, a first-year senior starter for the Patriots and transfer from Blue Springs, electrified the crowd with many dunks, including one off an offensive rebound that set the stage for an 8-0 Patriot run in the deciding third quarter.

Truman senior Najee Williams (0) rises above Van Horn defender Brycen Dean for a dunk in the second half of Wednesday's game. Williams finished with 26 points to lead the Patriots to a 71-61 victory.

“It was an electric atmosphere and I know my teammates and our fans like to see dunks,” said Williams, who led the Patriots with 26 points. “This game has really turned into a great rivalry.

“It’s not as big as Truman and Chrisman yet, but it’s getting there. You could feel the electricity in the gym before the game started. And all us guys knew we had to go out and give it our best if we were going to have a chance to win.”

Black, who finished with 17 points, agreed with Williams.

“I shot that 3-pointer and Najee just came out of nowhere and got the board and slammed it – it was incredible,” the senior forward said. “I don’t know if it’s a different game if Jaden doesn’t get in foul trouble – because he still scored a lot of points – but when he wasn’t in there we scored some more points and took advantage of him being on the bench.”

Truman forward Max Black (4) gets a shot off under pressure from Van Horn's Jaden Monday in Wednesday's game at Van Horn. Black scored 17 points to help lead the Patriots to a 71-61 win.

Monday had three first-quarter fouls but didn’t foul out. And coach Max Sollars was pleased that his senior standout finished with 28 points.

“Jaden is one of the best players in the area, and we want him out on the court, but when he picked up that third foul we had to sit him down,” Sollars said after the Falcons saw their record even out at 2-2.

“This is what a great player he is, though. He plays about one and a half quarters and still leads all scorers with 28 points. I’m proud of how he played and how our guys played when we didn’t have him.”

Monday said the toughest part of any season is sitting on the bench while his team is playing.

“That’s so tough, and it hasn’t happened a lot, thank goodness,” Monday said. “When I’m on the bench I just try to be a good teammate and support my guys and help them anyway I can. And there was the type of energy tonight that comes from a great rivalry game, which I think this will become.”

Truman's Runey Hernandez breaks free for a dunk in the Patriots' 71-61 victory over host Van Horn Wednesday.

Sollars agreed.

“This is going to become a great rivalry game, because Rod’s (Truman coach Rod Briggs) kids are playing hard and tough and we learned tonight we have to get tougher out on the court,” Sollars said. “They were more physical than we were, and when you have players with high basketball IQs, that’s tough to overcome.”

Truman (3-1) used an 18-12 third quarter advantage to pick up its third win of the year.

“We graduated a lot of great players last year,” Briggs said, “but we have guys like Runey, Max and Najee who are smart, smart players. And they’re very good players, as they all showed tonight.

“I thought we did everything we needed to do to win tonight. But I have to say, Jaden Monday is an amazing player and an even better young man.”

Hernandez, who finished with 14 points, said he is not surprised by the Patriots’ start this season.

“I know a lot of people are, but we’re not,” Hernandez said. “We set the tone tonight. We played well all night, but we knew we had to take advantage when Jaden was on the bench and we were able to do that.”

Van Horn's Korey Messick, front right, tries to keep the ball under pressure from Truman's Max Black (4) and Runey Hernandez during Wednesday's game at Van Horn. The Patriots went on to claim a 71-61 win.