Lee’s Summit West had weathered being down a starter or two before. But three starters?
That proved to be too much.
With 6-foot-10 center Yor Anei still missing, and backcourt mates Mario Goodrich and Phillip Brooks away on football recruiting trips, West lacked the ball-handling and firepower to keep up with Park Hill during a 58-39 loss Friday in the championship game of the 47th annual C.W. Stessman Invitational at Liberty High School.
West (12-2) had won before with Goodrich out of the lineup for the first two games of the William Jewell Holiday Classic.
Goodrich and Anei didn’t play in the Titans’ win against Christian Brothers College during the 810 Varsity Showcase on Jan. 13 at Lee’s Summit.
Anei remained sidelined during the Titans’ 66-57 win against Rockhurst in the C.W. Stessman semifinals.
But with Goodrich and Brooks absent, the Titans lost both of their senior backcourt playmakers and ball-handlers. Park Hill took advantage with a pressing offense that caused numerous turnovers and kept West’s offense out of sync, especially in the second half.
“They were better than we were, and that’s the bottom line,” Titans coach Michael Schieber said. “We don’t make excuses. It is what it is.”
Schieber wanted to shoulder most of the blame, even as West went for long stretches with players who had rarely seen any varsity action before.
“You’ve got too coach the guys we’ve got,” Schieber said. “We can’t do anything about those things. We’ve got to go and perform to our capability, and I’ve got to coach up a better capability and I didn’t do that tonight.”
Anei has been out the last six games dating back to the Titans’ 70-63 loss at Rockhurst on Jan. 9. Schieber would only say that Anei’s absence, which at first blamed on illness, was “a coaching decision.”
“He’s going to stay out until I tell him he can come back,” Schieber said.
Malachi Butler has started in Anei’s place and the 6-5 senior helped West stay close early as he scored 10 of his team-high 12 points in the first half. West trailed 25-19 at halftime after the first quarter finished as an 8-8 tie.
Park Hill (11-6) also was short-handed, with star guard Ronnie Bell away on a recruiting trip to Michigan after scoring 79 points and making two game-winning three-pointers during the Trojans’ first two tourney games.
But the Trojans still had point guard Willy Majok, who led all scorers with 19 points, and a quick backcourt that forced seven West turnovers in the third quarter. Those turnovers fueled a 12-2 run that closed the third quarter and put the Titans behind 43-24.
“We’ve played many games without our two lead guards already this season,” Park Hill coach Chad Jones said. “We were used to it. They weren’t, and I think it showed tonight.”
Nonetheless, Schieber doesn’t expect West to suffer lopsided losses, whether the Titans are at full strength or not.
“I didn’t have an answer tonight as a coach and that falls on me,” he said, “and, at the end of the day, we just weren’t good enough tonight.”