Truman rebounds for third-place win over South

By Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner

Max Black’s career performance lifted Truman to a third-place finish with a 60-50 victory Wednesday afternoon over Blue Springs South in the Nelson Division of the William Jewell High School Holiday Classic.

Black scored 24 points and hit 5-of-10 3-pointers, including a pair of key one that helped Truman break a 28-28 tie in the third quarter and build a 10-point lead over the Jaguars.

The Patriots raised their lead to 13 in the fourth quarter and held off a late charge by the Jaguars to win the first meeting between the two teams since 2014.

“We hit a little bit rock bottom last night with Center,” Truman coach Rod Briggs said of the semifinal loss on Tuesday. “The effort was not what it needed to be and the attention to detail, and today I felt we were a little more energetic and enthused. We bounced back, and hopefully we can look at it as a real positive that is where we started to turn the corner to be successful. We could look back and say this was the turning point in the season.”

Truman (6-2) held a slim 21-20 lead at halftime, and the lead changed hands four times early in the third quarter. A 3-pointer by South’s Quinton Robertson with 4:05 to play tied the game at 28-28, but Black then hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to break the tie. 

Up 33-30, 7-0 run by the Patriots provided a cushion they never relinquished.

Black had a three-point play with a basket and free throw with 2:06 to play. On the next possession, Potts scored a third-chance basket to make it 38-30.

“I think the key was we really shot the ball well from the 3-point line and that stretch in the third quarter made a big difference,” Briggs said. “And obviously, Max was really good today.”

Blue Springs South (4-5) coach Josh Smith called a timeout after Potts’ basket to regroup his squad, but Najee Williams – who had 16 points and 9 rebounds – scored to make it a 10-point game for the Patriots.

“That was the run that definitely won the game,” said Black, who previously scored 18 points this year against Olathe North and last year against Park Hill South for his previous career-best game. “We got a few stops in a row and was able to string together some good offensive possessions.”

The Jaguars pulled within seven going into the fourth, but a 7-0 Truman run to open the final quarter made it 47-33 with a little more than five minutes to play. South then got no closer than seven.

Blue Springs South shot 35.3 percent from the field, but in the middle two quarters where Truman made the leap to take the lead, the Jaguars hit 7 of 25 shots. Truman also held a 42-23 advantage in rebounds.

“The most telling thing, looking at the stats after the game, was Truman abused us on the glass,” Smith said. “I know we missed a whole bunch of shots, but they outrebounded us by 19. You aren’t winning many games getting outrebounded like that. 

“We have keys to the game, like every other team, but when we execute those keys well, we have been successful. When we haven’t, we have had our struggles. Today, give Truman credit, but we didn’t execute our keys well and we walked away with a loss.”

Another key stat for Truman: It allowed just 12 points by South senior Devin Tomlinson – all in the first half. His 12 points led South, followed by 11 from Dallas Whitney and 10 from Ty Mauck.

Runey Hernandez, Potts and Black all rotated defensive coverage on Tomlinson in the second half to help keep him scoreless.

“Our starters got in foul trouble and we really depended on the bench in this game,” said Black, who added six rebounds and four assists. “They played well, especially Quincy Potts. We were able to stop their primary scorer, Devin Tomlinson, and held him to zero points in the second half. I felt we did a really good job defensively. We held them to 50 but we could’ve held them to 40. We gave up easy baskets at the end.”

Smith also pointed to the assists column where Truman had 13 on 23 baskets and South had three on 18. Against Van Horn in the opening round of the tournament, Blue Springs South made 25 baskets and had assists on 16 of those.

“That is something we have had issues with this season,” Smith said. “We just haven’t done it consistently this season.”

Truman hosts North Kansas City in its first official home game of the season Tuesday. That same night, Lee’s Summit West visits Blue Springs South in a Suburban Big Eight game.