Truman stuns top-seeded Eagles, advances to district final

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner

Truman made a little historical footnote on Monday night.

The Patriots picked up a 49-25 victory over Liberty North in the Class 6 District 15 semifinals at the Liberty North Fieldhouse.

Fourth-seeded Truman became the first school to knock off a top seed in Class 6 basketball, although that is a new classification this year after the Missouri State High School Activities Association expanded from five classes.

Traditionally, a No. 1 seed losing its first game in the state’s largest class is pretty rare. In the past five years, there have only been three such upsets across 16 districts in Class 5.

One was last year, with Staley beating Park Hill. You then have to go back to 2016-17, when Belton beat top-seeded Lee’s Summit North. The year prior, Waynesville knocked off Camdenton.

So, if you are scoring at home, the No. 1 seeds in the state’s largest classifications were 77-3 heading into this year’s postseason.

“It was a hell of a win,” Truman coach Jimmy Page said following his team’s third straight win and second in a row in district play.

The key was how the defense played in the second and fourth quarters, allowing a combined five points in those periods. The Patriots (12-9) faced a 10-5 deficit after the first quarter but then kept the Eagles off the scoreboard in the second quarter.

Taliyah Scott hit a pair of 3-pointers, while Cece Mora drained one from the top of the key to help Truman surge ahead 16-10.

“The focus of our defense was locking down their best player (Emma Perry),” said Scott, who finished with a team-high 15 points. “We have been working on the defense and who is getting the point (guard) and what we need to worry about. Rebounding was very important because of our size; we are so small.”

The Patriots expanded the lead to 30-19 after three quarters with Urya’ Williams scoring six of her 13 points on layups.

Truman put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter and stopped the three-game winning streak Liberty North (12-9) had entering this contest.

Scott was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 6:32 to play and hit two of her three free throws. Then she scored a layup in transition to make it 35-20. Truman got a 3-pointer from Layla Scott to push the advantage to 38-20 with 5:33 left. That was part of a 11-0 run for the Patriots.

“For us to be good, we have to hit six, seven, eight 3-pointers a game,” Page said. “We are so small and we struggle so much inside. It just opens it up and they have to come out and guard Taliyah and Layla. I preach I want 3-pointers, layups and free throws, that is what I want. I don’t want mid-range jumpers and running floaters from nine feet. Attack the rim.”

The Truman defense was stingy again in the fourth quarter, not giving up a basket until Karli Angle scored late in the game, which cut the Patriots’ lead to 44-22.

The Eagles went 5 minutes, 44 seconds without a basket and going back to the third quarter, the span without a field goal was more than seven minutes.

Perry, who hit 49 of the team’s 70 3-pointers this year, was held scoreless by the Patriots.

“The biggest thing we did was doing a great job of rebounding and not giving them second-chance points,” Page said. “When you do that, you have the ability to win.”

The Patriots had four players score in double figures, joining Williams and Taliyah Scott. Layla Scott and Mora each finished with 10.

This will be the team’s fourth straight trip to a district final, but Truman has won only one of the previous three. One of those three losses came against Liberty in the 2017-18 season.

Now, Page’s squad will take on a Liberty squad – the No. 2 seed – that held off North Kansas City 50-38 in a game only a few miles away. The game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Liberty.

The two teams are very familiar with each other’s programs. The Blue Jays won both regular season meetings last year. The two played each other twice in 2019, four times in 2018 and three times in 2017.

Liberty has won the past two district games – 2017 and 2018 – against Truman.