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Victory over Indians doesn't please Truman coach

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

Even while his boys basketball program is having its best season in over a decade, Truman head coach Rod Briggs said there are still multiple issues to fix.

That is what he saw against Suburban Middle Six rival Fort Osage Friday night. Even though the game didn’t go the way Briggs wanted, Truman still showed it still has a lot of talent. It was a close contest throughout, but a pair of steals and fast-break baskets for senior guard Najee Williams helped the Patriots hold off the Indians for a 59-48 victory.

“We didn’t do very much right the whole game,” Briggs said. “Honestly I am disappointed with how we played. We didn’t play the way we were supposed to play tonight. I wasn’t pleased with our effort and our attention to detail was really bad.

“We sometimes want to make the fancy play instead of the winning play. We have spurts where we play really well. We need to do that more often. Then we have spurts where we make poor decisions. Fort Osage played well, they played hard and they are well-coached. We were just bigger and stronger than them tonight, and that’s why we won.

Even though Truman had a distinct height advantage, the shorter Fort Osage players were still able to get to the rim and finish. The Patriots have three players who are 6-foot-4 and taller to protect the paint.

“That’s the kind of team we expected at the beginning of the season,” Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson said of his young team’s aggressiveness. “We’re starting to get it. We have to play like that every single night. There’s times we don’t do that.”

Keeping players from getting to the rim was just one of the issues for his team, Briggs said.

“Our on-ball defense was not good, we didn’t get through screens and we bailed them out a lot of times when we didn’t need to foul them.” Briggs said. “It was a bunch of little things.”

Even with Truman (15-4, 4-1) not playing up to par, it still led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter and 23-20 at halftime. Williams and Runey Hernandez combined 19 points to help lead the way in the first 16 minutes.

The Patriots then went on a 17-8 run to end the third quarter to take a 44-32 lead going into the fourth. Truman’s ball movement was superb in the third with all five players touching the ball at least once on most possessions. Quincy Scott was especially sharp with his passing, as he fit a bounce pass through a small window to a cutting Williams, who threw down a baseline dunk late in the quarter. Scott also threaded a pass to Quincy Potts on the low block for a layup.

“It was just his basketball IQ,” Williams said of Scott’s bounce pass. “It was our connection and knowing each other. I knew he was going to hit me, that’s why I cut.”

Added Scott: “That’s the only thing we struggle with is not moving the ball as much. When we do move the ball, we score pretty easily.”

Fort Osage (5-11, 0-5) got as close as seven points after junior swingman Arthur Wyatt hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 49-42 midway through the fourth.

Truman senior Max Black then answered with a 3-pointer of his own on the next possession. Williams then helped close the game with two steals, one which resulted in a conventional three-point play and another in a two-handed slam over an Indian defender.

“It got late and we started forcing not as good shots,” Wilson said. “We turned the ball over a couple too many times. I told the guys, ‘That’s six possessions in that second half when we did something good, then we lost a man and they shot a layup or they got a steal and a layup.”

Hernandez finished with 17 points for Truman. Braden Pottberg led Fort Osage with 16 points and Wyatt chipped in with 11.