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Hot start, cold finish for Patriots

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Truman guard Najee Williams slams the ball in the hoop in Thursday's game at Truman. Williams had five dunks and scored 26 points but the Patriots lost 76-62.

Najee Williams promised a spectacular start to Truman’s Senior Night contest against visiting Grandview Thursday, and the human highlight reel delivered.

After winning the opening tip, the senior guard sprinted to the basket, took a pass and slammed the ball home, much to the delight of his teammates and the socially distanced Truman fans.

Seniors Max Black, Runey Hernandez and Ryan Swarts then hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers and Williams concluded the first quarter with another crowd-pleasing dunk.

Truman's Quincy Scott (20) drives to the hoop for a layup in Thursday's game against Grandview. The host Patriots suffered a 76-62 loss to the Bulldogs.

The Patriots led the winless Grandview Bulldogs 25-14 and looked to be on their way to a memorable Senior Night win.

But it wasn’t meant to be. As spectacular as coach Rod Briggs’ Patriots were in the first quarter, they never really found an offensive or defensive groove the rest of the night as the fired up Bulldogs claimed a 76-62 victory.

“Maybe the first quarter was too good,” Briggs said after his team fell to 9-3. “We were on fire the first four minutes, hitting all those threes, and maybe we got a little bit content against a team that hadn’t won a game this year.

Truman guard Najee Williams goes up for a shot against Grandview defenders Jordan McGee (1) and Tyrek Cleaves (2) in Thursday's game at Truman. Williams scored 26 points but the Patriots lost 76-62.

“And if that’s the case, that’s my fault. We played Tuesday, and playing again tonight we had a light practice yesterday and maybe we should have gotten after it in practice, but it’s kind of late in the season and I wanted us fresh for Senior Night.

“We made physical mistakes, mental mistakes, didn’t play well offensively or defensively after the first quarter and you saw the end result. We better use this as a learning experience.

“At least it happened tonight – although you never want to see your team go through three disappointing quarters of play – than when it could really hurt us down the stretch.”

While Briggs and his staff were looking for answers, 1-7 Grandview coach Reggie Moore was accepting accolades from the Bulldogs parents who watched the game.

“You saw a very young team grow up tonight,” said Moore, whose Bulldogs have averaged 25 wins a season over the past five years and have won two Class 4 state titles. “These guys have to learn what it takes to win, and tonight, they worked hard and beat a very, very good Truman team.

Truman forward Max Black drains a 3-pointer in Thursday night's game against Grandview. The Patriots jumped to a 25-14 lead after one quarter but faltered in the final three in a 76-62 loss.

“Look, we went into tonight 0-7, and they get off to that great start and I’m wondering how our guys are going to handle it. And they handled it just the way you’d hope. There was no panic, we took good shots, we played great defense and got back in the game.”

Truman led 38-32 at halftime, but a 3-point basket by Josiah Kirkwood at 4:10 of the third quarter gave the Bulldogs their first lead, 43-42.

Every time Truman made a basket, the Bulldogs had an answer, and took a 52-51 lead into the fourth quarter.

Truman scored just 11 fourth-quarter points while the Bulldogs scored 24 and turned a thriller into a rout.

Grandview junior guard Maurice Jennings finished the night with six 3-pointers and a game-high 32 points. Kirkwood added 11.

Williams, who had five dunks in the game, finished with a team high 26 points, while Black added 11 and Hernandez 10.

Truman's Runey Hernandez (23) throws up a one-handed shot in the Patriots 76-62 home loss to Grandview Thursday.