A tournament can often serve as outside exposure for players and scouting opportunities for coaches.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
In the case of the Rockhurst Hawklets, they were simply hoping to learn a little more about themselves.
They found good things.
In a supposed down year, Rockhurst repeated as Patterson Division champions with a 56-49 win against Liberty on Saturday night to close out the American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic at William Jewell College. The Hawklets captured their eighth title in the tournament’s 33-year history.
“I have a feeling that there are going to be some up and down times,” Rockhurst coach Mark Nusbaum said. “But the thing I like about this team is we can bounce back. We’ve got some mental toughness, and we showed it tonight.”
It appeared at its peak in the fourth quarter.
The Hawklets, 7-3, never led by more than five points until adding a pair of free throws for the seven-point final. But they also never trailed — even after allowing Liberty to claw back from deficits to twice tie the game.
Each time, Rockhurst responded with a key bucket from Kyle Wolf, who had a game-high 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Wolf had only four points at halftime, but Rockhurst found offensive success in going to the man who had served as a defensive stopper the day before — senior Michael Jones. A third-quarter jam highlighted a 14-point night on 6-of-7 shooting.
“I want to do whatever I can to help my team, whether it’s on offense or whether it’s on defense,” Jones said before offering a quick smile. “But, yeah, playing offense is a little more fun.”
Liberty, 9-2, fought its way back into the game after trailing 26-20 at halftime. Kellan Turner, who couldn’t find the same success that led to his game-winning shot in the semifinal game, made only five of 15 shots for 11 points.
Still, he buried a couple of key buckets in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback attempt that was helped by Rockhurst’s inefficiency at the free-throw line. The Hawklets made only 13 of 26 attempts.
Instead, Rockhurst relied on its defense to make plays over the final eight minutes, and it responded by limiting the Blue Jays to only 10 points.
“That’s how it should work being a senior — you make plays when it counts,” Nusbaum said. “You have to be the guy that dreams about making the big play, and most of these kids actually do.”
Truman 53, St. Pius X 50
Three players scored in double figures, and Truman overcame a poor shooting afternoon to bounce back and win the third place game of the Patterson Division.
Dewayne Thornton scored 14 points, Lane Titus scored 13 and Scott Agee had 10 for the Patriots, who improved to 7-4 despite making only 22 of 36 free throws.
Mac Mason paced St. Pius X with 19 points. The Warriors fell to 7-3.
Harrisonville 61, Kearney 47
Mason Saffels, Luke Cooper and Matthew Prindle each nailed a pair of three-pointers, part of a 6-for-11 performance from long distance for Harrisonville, which finished fifth in the Patterson Division.
The Wildcats improved to 6-3. Cooper poured in a game-high 21 points. Saffels added 18, and Prindle scored 13.
Dray Starzl led Kearney with 19 points and eight rebounds in a losing effort.