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Patriots capture first tourney title in years

Truman holds off Ray-Pec rally to take NKC Invitational crown

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Truman players hoist the championship plaque of the 71st annual North Kansas City Invitational after holding off Raymoire-Peculiar for a 43-40 win in the final Friday night.

Truman finally won a tournament title but it went down the last second, literally.

The Patriots fended off a feverish rally by Raymore-Peculiar to prevail 43-40 in the championship game of the 71st annual North Kansas City Invitational. Truman held a 19-point lead early in the second quarter, but had to hold on until the buzzer went off – turning back three shot attempts by the Panthers.

The championship is the first in a number of years for the Patriots, now 12-3 overall. After coming up short in a pair of tournament titles under the guidance of Rod Briggs, his squad secured the plaque with a 3-0 run at the NKC Fieldhouse.

“We haven’t won a tournament in so long and to win in that way, it was a gritty battle down the final whistle, it means a lot for everybody,” said Truman senior Max Black, who made the all-tournament team. “They are a really disciplined team and they are a really good team. To be honest, they outplayed us most of the game, but it’s about what happens at the end. We were able to get the last stop and that is how we won.”

Online records show this is the first time the Patriots had won three in a row to win a tourney title since the 2012-13 season, also winning at NKC. During the 2013-14 season, the Patriots won two games at the William Jewell Tournament, but further research couldn’t come up with the information if the Patriots played three games that year in Liberty or only needed two to win a title. Briggs has guided the Patriots to the finals twice, at Phog Allen and Eudora, but the Patriots settled for second each time. 

This victory provided some flashback to just a week prior, when a fast start against Grandview opened up a double-digit lead but ultimately ended with a loss.

Truman (12-3) dominated the opening quarter against the Panthers (11-5) and especially Najee Willliams. The tournament MVP scored 12 of his 21 points in the first quarter and Truman built a 17-3 lead over Ray-Pec. Williams added the first five points of the second quarter, the latter coming on a 3-pointer with 4:09 to go.

Ray-Pec closed on a 7-0 run, which was a key factor later, coach Scott Jermain said.

“Credit to them, they played really well to start the game and we were in a funk,” Jermain said. “I think the biggest plays came at the end of the second quarter. We made a few buckets and got it down to 12 or 14. The biggest thing was seeing the ball go through the basket.”

The Patriots held Ray-Pec without a basket for more than 8 minutes in the first half, spanning the first and second quarter. The Panthers didn’t get their first points in the second quarter until a free throw by Jaden Reddell with 2:51 to play. The first basket didn’t come until D’Marion Riley scored with 2:14 left.

Truman led 22-10 at halftime and bumped the lead to 26-10 after a basket by Quincy Scott at 5:20, but the Patriots scored only one more basket the rest of the quarter. Despite that, Truman led by 10 going into the final frame.

The lead was at 13 points following a basket by Runey Hernandez with 4:43 to play, but the Panthers dominated from there.

Trailing 37-24, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run that featured two 3-pointers. Down by five, a drive and dish from Black to Maddux Bristow boosted the Truman lead to 39-32 with 2:29 remaining.

That was the last basket for the Patriots, which hit three of four free throws in the final 44 seconds that proved to be the difference. Ray-Pec trailed 40-37 and had the ball twice with a chance to tie but missed a pair of shots in the final minute.

Bristow, who was the only other Patriots to score in double figures, added his 10th and 11th points on a pair of free throws with 25.6 seconds left.

On the prior possession, Iryn Allen grabbed a missed 3-pointer and went down the court for a layup to pull Ray-Pec within a point after hitting a layup and then a foul shot with 37.1 seconds left.

Bristow, a sophomore, went to the line for a one-and-one. Briggs pulled his other four players back to midcourt to set the defense to help prevent another long drive by Allen, who led the Panthers with 16 points.

The confidence in his shooter paid off as he made both shots.

Ray-Pec had three shots in the final 10 seconds, but missed both. A plan for a 3-pointer was foiled by Truman, Jermain said.

In Briggs’ five years at the helm, he is now 4-0 against Ray-Pec.

“You will take the win how you can get it,” Briggs said. “We definitely learned from it (Grandview loss). I see some growth and some regression. We haven’t won anything like this in a while. We feel really good. I think you learn from experiences and hopefully we learned from that.

“Give Ray-Pec credit, they had a really good game plan. It didn’t really work early but they stuck with it and eventually they got enough stops and we stopped scoring. We got stagnant offensively and you know they would get going.”