Noah Durham turned a year older Tuesday, and he spent the evening of his 18th birthday on the floor with his Raymore-Peculiar basketball team at Lee’s Summit’s Fieldhouse.
Panthers coach Scott Jermain thought his team as a whole matured and became a little more seasoned as well.
It turned out to be quite a birthday for Durham, who hit several key baskets as Ray-Pec rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 56-54 win at Lee’s Summit.
The way the Panthers rallied with poise and determination after trailing for most of the game has Jermain believing they’ve come a long way since the start of the season.
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“I felt like we grew up,” Jermain said. “Every game poses a little bit different obstacle for you, and I felt like throughout that game we grew up and did some good things, especially down the stretch.”
Ray-Pec (10-10, 3-4 Suburban Gold) trailed 48-38 with 5 minutes, 22 seconds remaining before closing the gap to 50-47 with a 9-2 run.
Durham scored the last two baskets during that stretch before a three-pointer by the Tigers’ Will Eames made it 53-47 with less than 3 minutes left.
That would be Lee’s Summit’s last basket of the game.
Wesley McCullough, Ray-Pec’s leading scorer with 15 points, made it a 53-52 game by making three free throws after getting fouled outside the arc.
The Tigers turned the ball over with an errant pass on its next possession before Durham banked in a shot from the lane with 56 seconds left, putting the Panthers up for good.
“They set some good back screens for me and I got open on the block,” said Durham, who scored seven of his nine points in the final period. “I’m a pretty good-sized guard, so I usually have a guard on me once I catch on the block. I just caught it under the basket, and just backed him down and put it in off the glass.”
Lee’s Summit (13-9, 7-1 Suburban Gold) still had a chance to win the game when McCullough missed one of two free throws with 8 seconds left.
Seth Romi, who had made six three-pointers and finished with a team-high 20 points, got an open look at a game-winner but he missed as the buzzer sounded.
“We got the look we wanted,” Tigers coach Blake Little said. “Would have been nice if we rebounded that a little better, instead of everybody watching it, thinking it was going to go in.”
Little feared Lee’s Summit might have been due for a loss like this. Five of the Tigers’ wins this season have been by four points or less and a couple of those have come down to last-second shots.
During a 66-64 victory Jan. 30 at Blue Springs South, the Tigers blew an 18-point lead before getting a game-winning three from Romi. They needed overtime to hold off Blue Springs in the game after that.
“We’ve kind of been living dangerously for a few games and had come out on the right side a couple of times,” Little said. “But they knocked us out. They did a great job.”
Lee’s Summit appeared to knock out Ray-Pec early, taking a 17-9 first-quarter lead after Romi hit three three-pointers. The Tigers led 27-18 at halftime and opened up a 37-24 lead midway through the third period, but the Panthers never backed down.
“We just said keep grinding, keep grinding,” Jermain said. “Sometimes games are just like that.”
1988 Tigers to be honored
Lee’s Summit will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Tigers’ boys and girls 1988 state tournament teams during a ceremony before Friday’s home game against Lee’s Summit North.
The 1988 teams went a combined 58-3 on their way to second-place finishes at state.
The girls’ team, led by the legendary coach Larry Jansen, went 28-2 on its way to a 12th consecutive district title and fifth state semifinals appearance in 10 years.
The boys’ team, led by Hall of Fame coach Glen McDonald, rattled off 30 consecutive victories on their way to the state championship game.