After back-to-back losses, including an unsightly blowout two days earlier in the opening round of the Culver’s Classic, Lee’s Summit boys basketball coach Blake Little feared the Tigers had lost their early-season swagger.
It took one good flurry Wednesday night to allay those fears.
Little saw that swagger again during a 15-4 run in the fourth quarter, a run Lee’s Summit needed to secure a 60-50 victory versus a gritty Lincoln Prep team in a consolation matchup of the 43rd annual Culver’s Classic at Lee’s Summit’s Field House.
Lee’s Summit (9-5) was clinging to a 45-44 lead in the fourth quarter when a Jaden Moore basket started the run. Will Eames swished a three-pointer and made another three off an inbounds play after back-to-back Lincoln Prep baskets.
Deron Davis chipped in two free throws and Eames swatted a shot by Lincoln Prep’s Quianan Rieves before Seth Romi pushed the ball down court and fed Jaden Moore in the lane for a driving dunk.
“I saw Seth sprinting, so I got in the middle and got in front of him,” Moore said. “I didn’t think Seth was going to pass it to me, but he hit me and I just went up.”
Romi and Davis added more free throws, but Moore’s slam provided the exclamation point during the run that put Lee’s Summit up 60-48 with 40 seconds to play. The Tigers had good stretches earlier, but that was the moment he saw the spark that got lost in a close defeat against Rockhurst and a 62-45 drubbing by Ruskin in Monday’s tournament opener.
“We get three stops in a row, we end up with a dunk, we made a couple of free throws and all of the sudden this is Tiger basketball again,” Little said. “It was back to what we need to be doing.”
Lee’s Summit never trailed after taking a 20-13 lead with an 8-0 run early in the second quarter, but it could never quite shake off Lincoln Prep either, even after going up 29-18 before halftime.
Lincoln Prep started chipping away at that lead when the 6-foot-6 Rieves and guard Arthur Weston Jr. started finding shots in the third quarter and Lee’s Summit struggled against the Blue Tigers’ up-tempo pressure.
Weston scored seven of his 15 points during the third quarter as Lincoln Prep crept within 41-37. Rieves, who led all scorers with 18 points, had nine fourth-quarter points as the Blue Tigers pulled within a point.
“I just feel like we played a little tight instead of just making the plays that we usually make,” Little said. “We were trying a little too hard. We just had to get back to playing.”
Which, Little said, the Tigers eventually did.
Eames, after struggling to score against Ruskin, warmed up in the fourth quarter for eight of his team-high 15 points. Moore finished with 12 points, while McDaniel, who made all six free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, and guard Nate Jones each finished with 10 points.
Lee’s Summit will face crosstown rival Lee’s Summit North for fifth place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday during the tourney’s final round.