It was the kind of performance that prompts a coach – in this case Rockhurst’s Mark Nusbaum – to stop by the visiting locker room after the game offering well-earned congratulations and encouragement.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Shawnee Mission East played that well Friday, seizing control from the opening tip and rolling to a crisp and thoroughly impressive 62-50 win at Rockhurst.
The Lancers’ smothering 2-3 zone bottled up Hawklets senior Kyle Wolf, while coach Shawn Hair’s team lit up the scoreboard at the other end – shooting 60 percent in a wire-to-wire victory.
“We came out with a ton of energy and we hit some shots early too,” said Hair, whose daughter Annabelle celebrated her third birthday at the game. “That was big. We were hot and when the team comes out so strong like that it gives you some good momentum.”
Seeking to rebound from the season’s first loss, SM East, 11-1 and ranked fourth in The Star’s big-class boys basketball poll, blitzed No. 6 Rockhurst early behind senior Vance Wentz, who drilled two 3-pointers in the first two minutes.
Collectively, the Lancers, who led by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter, started the game six for six from the field in stepping out to a 15-4 lead.
The Hawklets, 15-4, couldn’t make a dent before halftime and never trimmed that deficit into single digits in the second half.
“They were packing it in and weren’t letting Kyle touch the ball,” Nusbaum said. “That means we’ve got to have other kids score. We knew they might play some junk Ds, but we didn’t match their intensity and we didn’t hit shots. It was a tough one for us, but – like I told the kids – we’ve got to learn from that one.”
Rockhurst learned a lot about SM East sophomore Lucas Jones, whose back-breaking debut in the rivalry included 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“He’s made them such a better team,” Nusbaum said. “He does a nice job inside and really makes them better, because they haven’t had big kids who are as active as he is in the past.”
Before the game, Jones admits to some butterflies. It’s a raucous, rowdy atmosphere when the two teams, which are separated by fewer than four miles, mix it up.
“I was very nervous, but when we came out and Vance hit a couple big shots right away those nerves disappeared,” Jones said.
Wentz, who scored 10 points in the first quarter, matched Jones’ game-high 16 points and added five rebounds, while senior Zach Schneider chipped in 14 points.
“It means a ton, because these kids had never experienced a victory in this rivalry,” Hair said. “Plus, it’s always good to win on the road. This is a tough gym to play at and Mark does a great job with the program. Hopefully, this gives us some momentum heading back into our league games.”
Wolf led Rockhurst with 11 points and six rebounds, while senior Tom Keller added 11 in the loss.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.