Situational basketball is a focal point of every Truman boys basketball practice.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Playing from behind. Competing in a tight game. Free-throw shooting with the game on the line. The Patriots cycle through all of it.
The emphasis Tuesday was playing with a lead. That meant learning how to take care of the ball to prevent a comeback.
A day later, that practice equaled near perfection come game time.
After building a 12-point halftime edge, Truman held at least a nine-point lead the rest of the way in a 60-48 win against Oak Park in the semifinal round of the 63rd annual North Kansas City Basketball Tournament. The Patriots, 9-5, are gunning for the fifth straight championship in the Northtown tournament.
They will face a familiar foe in the finals at 7 p.m. Friday night. Park Hill South defeated Central, 91-33, in the nightcap, to reach its fifth straight championship game in the event. Truman has won the previous four title matchups.
"We’ve worked on a lot of situations during practice," Truman coach Billy Guinee. "This is a time where it really pays off. I thought they executed what we did (Tuesday) really well."
You could say that. Truman put together a strong defensive effort that forced 21 turnovers from Oak Park, which fell to 3-9. Meanwhile, the Patriots limited their own mistakes, committing only nine turnovers, including only four after gathering a double-digit lead.
First things first, of course. The Patriots had to gather the lead before they held on to it.
Enter senior Zach Huber. A post player, Huber scored eight points in the opening quarter. He even stepped back for a rare three-pointer in the second quarter, part of his 19-point outing.
That opened up the perimeter for junior Lane Titus, who finished with 16 points, with seven of those coming during a 13-2 run over the middle of the second quarter to turn a 21-21 game into a 34-23 Truman lead.
"We’re trying hard on offense to keep the ball moving," Titus said. "My teammates got me open, and I hit a couple of shots that sort of got us going."
Ben Ekeh had 13 points in a losing effort Oak Park.
Park Hill South 91, Central 33
Unhappy with his play in a tournament-opening win Monday, Park Hill South junior Robert Lane told a few of his teammates he was ready for a chance at redemption Wednesday.
He didn’t waste his opportunity.
Lane poured in 24 points — including 16 in the first half — to lead the Panthers’ rout of of Central in the semifinals.
"I came out here today with the mentality to go to work," said Lane, who scored all but two of his points in the paint. "I think with me, that starts on the defensive end. Once I get excited about defense, I start playing harder, and that just gets my offense going, too."
The Panthers’ defense was particularly good, holding Central to less than 10 points in every quarter. Peyton Meek added 21 for the Panthers, who improved to 11-3 and earned a much-wanted rematch with Truman.
"It’s definitely our time to get one," Lane said. "We’re definitely tired of losing to them."
Diego Lee led Central, 5-10, with 14 points.
TRUMAN 60, OAK PARK 48
PARK HILL SOUTH 91, CENTRAL 33