After scoring 79 points and making two game-winning baskets, Park Hill senior Ronnie Bell certainly would have had one grand finale in the championship game of the C.W. Stessman Invitational.
Instead, Bell was out of town, with his coach’s blessing, on a visit to his future football home in Michigan.
Even without Bell, whose two-game scoring spree remained the talk of the final night of the tournament’s 47th edition, Park Hill claimed the championship with a 58-39 victory against an even more short-handed Lee’s Summit West squad Jan. 19 at Liberty.
Bell, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, scored 42 points Jan. 16 in Park Hill’s tourney opener against St. Joseph-Lafayette, the last three on shot before the buzzer, which propelled the Trojans to a 72-71 victory.
During a semifinal against Liberty two days later, Bell scored 37 points and hit a game-winning three at the buzzer in the Trojans’ 58-57 victory.
“Almost the exact same spot on the court, just flip-flopped,” Park Hill coach Chad Jones said. “The same kid, the same play ... we’re just really lucky he’s on our team.”
Jones, who’s been a head basketball coach for 16 seasons, said he’d never seen anything like it before. Neither had Park Hill assistant Fred Turner, who’s been coaching more than 40 years.
“I don’t think either one of us can remember a time a kid hit a pull-up jump shot to win a game from 25 feet in back-to-back games,” Jones said. “It’s just unheard of. It just doesn’t happen.”
The back-to-back buzzer-beaters add to Bell’s already legendary reputation as one of the Kansas City area’s top high-school athletes. He won the Simone Award in December as the metro area’s top high school football player after catching 89 passes for 1,605 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall.
Bell had signed to play basketball at Missouri State but changed his mind after winning the Simone.
Instead, he received and accepted an offer to play football at Michigan. Bell spent last weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., on his official visit with the Wolverines.
“You just tip your hat to him and tell him to enjoy it and see what it’s all about,” Jones said. “We’re happy for him and we’re even more excited we were able to get a win tonight without him.”
Park Hill had played before without Bell, who missed the Trojans’ first five games with a knee injury, and backcourt mate Willy Majok, who missed 10 games due to eligibility issues.
Lee’s Summit West dealt with its own absences — 6-foot-10 center Yor Anei along with starting guards Mario Goodrich and Phillip Brooks, who were on football recruiting visits of their own.
Park Hill took advantage with a pressing defense that cause numerous turnovers and fueled a game-clinching 12-2 run at the end of the third quarter.
“We’ve played many games without our two lead guards already this season,” Jones said. “We were used to it. They weren’t, and I think it showed tonight.”
It also showed once again that the Trojans can succeed even without jaw-dropping performances from Bell, who still made the All-Tournament team despite missing the final.
That further added to Jones’ disbelief.
“To make the all-tournament team only playing two games and to score 79 points is pretty amazing,” Jones said.