Few teams could match Lee’s Summit West’s athleticism and quickness this boys’ basketball season.
Rockhurst was one of them — and the Titans met their match in the Hawklets.
West’s bid for a second consecutive trip to the Class 5 state tournament in Columbia came to an end March 7 when Rockhurst outmuscled and outhustled the Titans for the better part of four quarters during a 64-59 victory in a sectional contest at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.
Rockhurst (22-5), which split two games with West in January, has several big-bodied players — 6-foot-9 senior John Murphy, 6-6 junior Dalen Ridgnal and 6-5 junior Darrius Hughes — who don’t contribute much offensively but managed to hamper the Titans’ inside game.
West’s 6-10 forward Yor Anei didn’t make a field goal and finished with only five points. Christian Bishop scored 21 points, but the 6-8 senior tallied 12 of those as the Titans battled back in the fourth quarter.
“I thought their physicality was a big part of the game,” West coach Michael Schieber said. “They’ve got a lot of bodies, a lot of athletes. We just didn’t do a very good job.”
The Hawklets also have quick guards like the Titans, which is where Rockhurst did most of its damage.
Senior Xavier Rhodes slashed his way to 31 points and junior Tyler Nelson made three three-pointers on his way to 12 points.
West (22-5) scored the game’s first six points, but the Titans never led again after Rockhurst responded 11-4 run to take the lead at the end of the first quarter. Driving layups by Rhodes and a Ridgnal putback in the second quarter helped the Hawklets boost that advantage to 24-17 by halftime.
The Titans didn’t help themselves by making only 6 of 14 free throws in the first half, including missing the front end of three one-and-ones.
“We were just stagnant offensively, especially in the first half,” Schieber said. “Why that is I have no idea.”
Rockhurst’s lead grew to 41-30 after the third quarter and the Hawklets led by 12 when West started fighting back midway through the fourth quarter. A dunk from Bishop brought the Titans back within single digits with 1:31 to play.
Mario Goodrich converted an and-one off a floater with 32 seconds left then Phillips Brooks drove the lane with 23 seconds left to pull West within 61-58. Rockhurst helped the Titans’ rally by missing 11 of 24 free throws in the quarter, eight of them by Rhodes.
But Ridgnal didn’t miss when he took an outlet pass from Rhodes and scored with 17 seconds left as West’s season ended far earlier than most expected.
Goodrich, who has signed to play football at Clemson, scored 13 points in the final game of his Titans. It was also the last game for Bishop, who signed with Creighton, Anei, who signed with Oklahoma State, and Brooks, who will be a football walk-on at Kansas State.
“I feel bad for those kids,” Schieber said. “They obviously put in a lot of work.”