After two up-and-down losses in three games last week, Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little had a message to drive home for the first post-holiday practices: Make all 32 minutes count.
Little saw plenty of positive moments as Lee’s Summit took fourth place in the Patterson Division during the 38th annual William Jewell High School Holiday Classic.
But the Tigers also had their share of bad moments — stretches in which they couldn’t make shots or hold the ball — that made things difficult in all three games.
“It comes down to you’ve got to play a good 32 minutes against the teams that we play,” Lee’s Summit senior forward Will Eames said. “If we have an off quarter, that can lose you a game. Both of our losses came on one quarter we struggled on.”
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Lee’s Summit struggled early against Park Hill South in their tourney opener before mounting a second-half rally for a 61-57 victory.
During the semifinals, Oak Park took advantage of 14 Lee’s Summit turnovers and won the third quarter by 12 points in a 64-53 win and Grandview outlasted the Tigers in the third-place game Dec. 30 and claimed a 70-69 when Mason Taylor made a layup at the buzzer.
“We’ve got to be good for 32 minutes, not for eight,” Little said. “(Against Grandview) I felt like we were good for eight minutes. The night before against Oak Park I felt we were really good for 16, so we’ve got to put together those full 32 minutes. We’ve got to be more consistent with our minutes.”
Lee’s Summit (5-4) never trailed by more than seven points against Grandview but never led until Derron McDaniel hit both ends of a one-and-one with 6 seconds left.
The Bulldogs inbounded the ball under the Tigers’ basket, and Taylor drove the lane for the game-winner.
“That’s a tough loss,” Eames said. “You never want to go down like that, but you can’t focus on that one play. We lost that game early on bad turnovers and not rebounding.”
Eames, who was selected to the All-Patterson Division team, scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against Grandview for his third double-double in the tournament. Eames had 12 points and 12 rebounds against Park Hill South and 19 points and 11 boards against Oak Park.
But Lee’s Summit couldn’t overcome the 30 points and 11 rebounds from Oak Park’s Ochai Agbaji, who averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds during the Northmen’s three games. Oak Park also had 16 points off turnovers while the Tigers had two.
“Oak Park’s a great team,” Little said. “It feels like any mistake you make, they capitalize on. We did a lot of things we needed to do to win the game except for one really big one, which is not throw the ball away.”
After closing 2017 with three games in four days, Lee’s Summit (5-4) won’t begin the 2018 portion of its schedule until it heads south to play at Nixa on Friday and Springfield Kickapoo on Saturday. That will give Little plenty of time to talk about the importance of consistency.
“These teams are great and we’ve got to always compete,” Eames said.