With its leading scorer sidelined by an injury Tuesday, the Lee’s Summit North boys basketball team needed somebody to step up on the road against Ray-Pec during the Broncos’ Suburban Gold Conferencer opener.
Enter Mikel Henderson and Elijah Farr.
The two combined for 39 points in the absence of leading scorer Javaunte Hawkins, helping lead power North to a 61-48 win.
“On offense I had to pick it up, especially with my ball-handling,” said Henderson, who scored a game-high 21 points. “He (Hawkins) told me before the game to pick it up for him, and I did.”
Henderson started a second-half surge for the Broncos, who trailed 20-18 at the half after managing only six points during a second-quarter funk.
During a 12-2 spurt to open the second half, Henderson had a pair of steals that led to layups and also connected on a pair of three-pointers.
Just like that, it was a 30-22 Bronco lead.
“Coach told us to pick it up on defense,” Henderson said. “We had to lock down on defense and speed them up and get easy buckets. I felt good once I saw a bucket go in, especially after I didn’t shoot well in the first half. I had to get some confidence back. My teammates found me.”
The Broncos (5-3, 1-0 Suburban Gold) applied some full-court pressure in the second half, but also appeared to have more energy in the half-court, which prevented the Panthers (5-2, 0-1 Suburban Gold) from getting into any kind of rhythm offensively.
“You can’t turn the ball over, and you especially can’t have turnovers that go for layups,” Ray-Pec coach Scott Jermain said. “Those are killer. We were a little bit passive and, with the turnovers, you have to regroup. One turnover can’t lead to another turnover.”
North head coach Mike Hilbert agreed that the transition buckets made a big difference.
“Our defensive pressure allowed us to get easy buckets in transition,” he said. “Then, the guys start to relax a little more, they get some more confidence and it just flows from there.”
That flow also seemed to help with the Broncos’ half-court offense as they shook off a rough second quarter to put up 43 points in the second half.
“We were passing the ball more than once or twice per possession,” Hilbert said. “We were throwing it inside to the post and shots were falling, because we were getting better shots. We were more patient.”
The inside-outside play with Farr was on full display in the second half. He commanded so much attention from the Panthers’ defense that it opened things up for the rest of the team.
“He did a nice job scoring at the rim,” Hilbert said of Farr. “And as a senior he has a maturity about him to where, if he’s one-on-one in the post, he knows to attack, but, if they double him, then he will find shooters.”
Jermain knew the challenges the Panthers faced trying to slow down Farr, which was tough to do on a consistent basis, especially when he showed patience with the ball during the second half.
“He’s tough to guard,” Jermain said. “He was real patient and they did a nice job facilitating through him. We tried to make it tough for him to catch.”
Ray-Pec cut the deficit to 30-24 early in the third quarter but would never get any closer.
By the end of the third quarter, the Broncos led 41-32 and would lead by as many as 16 late in the fourth quarter, but it provided some valuable lessons for the Panthers, too.
“We’re pretty young,” Jermain said. “A lot of our mistakes tonight were by sophomores. They have to learn fast. They have a lot of growing up and getting better to do, and they will.”
North won’t play again until the calendar turns to 2018. At that point, the Broncos should be fully healthy and looking to make some noise in conference play and beyond.
“We started the season with a tough schedule,” Henderson said of losses to Rockhurst, Webster Groves and Bishop Miege. “But once we all get back together and work on our chemistry, we’ll be a tough team.”