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Patriots shut down Rockhurst, advance to NKC final

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner

A late run in the second quarter ultimately provided the boost Truman needed to pull away from Rockhurst in the final pool play game of the 71st annual North Kansas City Invitational.

Truman finished 2-0 in its pool with the 51-31 win to advance to Friday’s 6:30 p.m. championship against Raymore-Peculiar (11-4), which held off St. Pius X in overtime.

Truman (11-3) trailed early against Rockhurst (4-8) but Max Black and Najee Williams sank back-to-back buckets to spark a 9-2 run to close out the half and erased a 13-11 deficit.

Rockhurst were held without a field goal for the final four minutes of the second quarter and the only points in that span were a pair of free throws from John Michael Gylle.

“Usually if you can win the last couple minutes of every quarter, it will usually help you a lot, and I think that is what happened today,” Truman coach Rod Briggs said. “A lot of times little things people do; we got some guys that come in and help you with the behind-the-scenes roles, like Quincy Potts, who had some big deflections in the second quarter.”

Black’s second 3-pointer of the second quarter made it 14-13, and Williams followed with a layup. After Gylle’s free throws, Williams hit a 3-pointer and Maddux Bristow made a free throw to make it 20-15 at halftime.

The stingy Truman defense limited Rockhurst to only one basket in the third quarter and four total points.

“We went into the locker room, I told everyone we’ve got to blow them out, they are too close,” said Williams, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “We needed to get our heads in the game and start knocking down the shots. I wanted to keep putting the pressure on them. They were bullying us around and I wanted to be a leader.”

After Rockhurst pulled within five at the 5-minute mark of the third quarter, Black provided the dish on a two-handed dunk by Williams. A 3-pointer by Black followed and the Patriots’ lead grew to 29-19, forcing Rockhurst to call a timeout.

That was part of an 11-0 run that carried over into the fourth quarter, and the Patriots built a 35-21 lead.

Williams’ final points came with 4:20 left, when his layup made it 40-23. He exited shortly after with only four less points than the entire Rockhurst team had up until that point.

“Today we were on the right track and everybody was passing the ball and knocking our shots down,” Williams said.

Black’s final bucket, his fifth 3-pointer, came with 3:33 left to push the lead to 18. Two free throws by Griffen Hernandez with 2:45 remaining pushed the lead to 20, up to that point the largest lead. A basket in the closing seconds by Prosper Obasi led to plenty of Patriots jumping up and celebrating the shot by the senior, which accounted for the final score.

“We got good shots early in the game, but later in the game they actually started going in,” Briggs said. “We got good shots most of the night. We got a little 3-point happy, missed our first four or five, maybe more. We’ve got to get a little more aggressive and get to the rim. Slowly but surely we started doing that.”