During two of its previous three games, the Raymore-Peculiar boys’ basketball team battled back from big deficits to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.
Only one of those rallies ended with a victory, but there’s more to it than that for Ray-Pec coach Scott Jermain.
The Panthers cut a 13-point Lee’s Summit West lead down to six Feb. 13 but couldn’t come any closer during a 49-41 loss on the Titans’ home floor.
“We’re still pretty young,” Jermain said. “We’re still trying to show signs of being resilient and keep battling. That’s what it’s all about.”
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Ray-Pec (10-12 overall, 3-6 Suburban Gold) showed that resilience Feb. 6, wiping out a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Lee’s Summit 56-54.
The Panthers also were down 20 points to Lee’s Summit North on Feb. 2 before a 13-0 fourth-quarter run brought them back within single digits late.
This time, Ray-Pec found itself down 34-21 late in the third quarter and still trailed by nine points at the start of the fourth before it began chipping away.
A three-pointer from sophomore forward Kian Scroggins followed by two Jordan Jermain free throws brought the Panthers back within 41-35 with 6 minutes left.
The lead remained six — 44-38 — for West (17-4, 7-2 Suburban Gold) after Wesley McCullough, who led Ray-Pec with 17 points, scored on a baseline drive with just over 2 minutes left.
The Titans scored the next five points after Scroggins fouled out before McCullough hit a three with 36 seconds left.
Ray-Pec spent most of the game struggling against West’s trapping pressure defense and a duo of athletic big men, Oklahoma State-bound 6-foot-10 center Yor Anei and Creighton-bound 6-7 Christian Bishop.
Anei led the Titans with 17 points, six of which came off dunks, while Bishop scored only six points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. But he highlighted a 10-0 second-quarter run with a windmill slam off a three-quarters court pass from Mario Goodrich.
“They’re very athletic,” Jermain said. “We can’t simulate what they have in our practices.”
West’s defense forced 18 Ray-Pec turnovers, many of which led to fast-break layups. Still, the Panthers remained within single digits most of the third quarter until West turned back-to-back backcourt steals into four points and a 34-21 lead.
“We were rattled at that point because we had turned it over a couple of times,” Jermain said. “We bounced back, continued to fight and made a game out of it. I was really proud of our effort.”
Jermain knows this may not be the last time Ray-Pec sees of West. The Panthers are seeded fourth in the Class 5, District 13 tournament and, if they get by Belton in the first round Feb. 26, wound face the top-seeded Titans the next night.
The tournament will be played at Ray-Pec, and Jermain hopes some of that close-game experience pays off before then.
“The biggest thing is it was a great learning experience for us,” Jermain said. “We’re going to take it and work at it a little bit.”