Going into this boys’ basketball season, Lee’s Summit North coach Mike Hilbert expected four players to produce most of the scoring.
It just took a while for that fourth player to develop.
Mikel Henderson already had a nice outside shot, but now he’s developed the confidence to shoot it.
When Henderson scored a season-best 24 points during the Broncos’ 65-54 Courtwarming victory Feb. 2 against Raymore-Peculiar, the 6-foot junior guard displayed the newfound swagger that has made him the team’s coveted fourth scoring threat.
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“That’s a huge plus,” Hilbert said. “It’s something that I was hoping would be there back in November and December when we started. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and really helping our team be successful.”
Henderson’s night continued a recent trend that has seen him reach double digits in four of the Broncos’ last five games. He’s averaged 17 points a game during that stretch and given North (10-8, 3-4 Suburban Gold) another option alongside sharpshooters Logan Jenkins and Javaunte Hawkins and 6-foot-8 forward Elijah Farr.
Farr added 17 points against Ray-Pec (9-10, 2-4 Suburban Gold) while Hawkins and Jenkins combined for 25 points.
“My teammates have been finding me a little more,” Henderson said. “I realized at the middle of the season I had to turn my game up a little bit for us to be successful.”
Henderson didn’t play most his sophomore year because of academic issues, which Hilbert believes put him behind and may have led to a less-than-confident feeling in a backcourt with two big scorers.
But when Hawkins injured his wrist taking a fall against Park Hill South just before Christmas break, Hilbert said he got a better look at Henderson’s potential.
“He stepped up and played so much better than he had,” Hilbert said, “so we knew he had the capability to do that. We just kept telling him ‘Hey, you’re a really good basketball player. Play with confidence and find your shots.’”
Henderson started with back-to-back threes in the first quarter that helped North jump out to an 18-12 lead it would never relinquish. His quickness helped produce 14 Ray-Pec turnovers, one of which he converted into a full-court layup as North closed the first half with a 10-1 run.
The Broncos led 37-19 at halftime after outscoring the Panthers 19-7 during the third quarter, which ended with North in front 53-33.
“He’s shown us the last couple of games that he’s every bit a basketball player as those other guys,” Hilbert said. “And it really helps our team to have a fourth kid that can score the ball and handle it and distribute it.”
North led 60-37 early in the fourth quarter when Hilbert cleared his bench, but he had to put his starters back in after Ray-Pec sophomore Kian Scroggins led the Panthers on a 13-0 run.
Scroggins scored seven of his team-high 19 points during the spurt, which ended with a Wesley McCullough three-pointer that cut North’s lead to 60-51 with less than 2 minutes to play.
“The kids that we subbed in, those are kids who play varsity minutes every night,” Hilbert said. “They didn’t handle the end of the game very well.”
Ray-Pec wouldn’t get any closer after the starters returned as North secured its fourth victory in the last five games — and another confidence boost.
“We’re real confident right now,” Henderson said. “This is probably the best we’ve been all season. We’re hoping it can continue.”