For pulling off an upset against its biggest rival, the Belton boys’ basketball team received a not-so-grand prize: A date with the No. 1 team in the state 24 hours later.
After extending its season Feb. 26 with a 40-38 victory versus Raymore-Peculiar during the first round of the Class 5, District 13 tournament, the Pirates had little time to recharge and regroup before taking on Lee’s Summit West in the semifinals on Tuesday night.
Belton looked spent and offered little resistance during a 63-33 loss at Raymore-Peculiar.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t give our best effort, we just didn’t have much in the tank,” Belton coach Brady Hammond said. “Emotionally and physically, we were just drained and that’s a tough way to go into a game against Lee’s Summit West.”
Hammond feared how his team would handle the quick turnaround, especially after how hard it worked to win a day earlier on Ray-Pec’s home floor.
Toppling the Titans (20-4) — with their imposing size, quick backcourt and withering defensive pressure — would take more energy than the Pirates (8-18) had left.
West had all those elements going early and it fueled a 12-2 run, which featured seven Belton turnovers, in creating an 18-6 lead after the first quarter. Christian Bishop, whose 14 points led the Titans, capped the quarter with an uncontested dunk.
The lead for West grew to 39-17 after outscoring Belton 21-11 in the second quarter. From there, the Pirates would steadily fall farther behind.
The Pirates’ offense relies on getting good shots in the lane, but the Titans’ defense kept them from penetrating. Then, when they did get in the lane, the 6-foot-8 Bishop and 6-5 Malachi Butler were there altering their shots. Yor Anei, the Titans’ 6-10 center, didn’t play due to an illness.
No Belton player came close to double figures. Terry Brown Jr.’s seven points led the Pirates.
“Our problem was getting it done on the offensive end and Lee’s Summit West had a lot to do with that,” Hammond said. “They took away the paint, then they pressured us. It’s very demoralizing when you work hard against pressure, you finally get it inside and the shot gets blocked.”
Ray-Pec (11-15) also had more size than Belton, but Hammond said the Pirates overcame it with an intense effort against the team that beat them 55-52 during the annual I-49 showdown in December.
Belton led by eight at the half after a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Cardan Smith.
The Panthers rallied to take a slim lead in the third quarter, but the Pirates went back on top in the fourth and maintained a slim margin despite missing several easy shots and free throws down the stretch.
“It was just heart and desire on our kids part,” Hammond said. “I thought that was the key to the entire game. I just felt we worked extremely hard the whole game.”
Belton just didn’t have enough left for another night as its first season under Hammond came to a close. He’s already looking forward to having all but three seniors back and a year under his belt next season.
“We had some bumps along the road, but the group I had on the floor this week, I couldn’t be more proud of,” Hammond said. “I never questioned their effort or competitiveness.”