The lead flip-flopped twice in the span of a minute, and Park Hill South senior point guard James Byrd could do little more than watch from the bench. He sat between a pair of coaches, his punishment for displaying a lack of energy to open the crucial fourth quarter against rival Park Hill.
But midway through the final quarter, Panthers coach Danny Parra offered Byrd a second chance. Byrd didn’t waste it.
He scored nine points over the final 3 minutes, lifting Park Hill South to a 61-58 victory over Park Hill on Friday.
“I had to come back with some energy, or I wasn’t coming back in,” said Byrd, who led his team with 14 points. “The team picked me up and kept giving me energy. I hit some shots and closed the game out.”
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Well, barely. Park Hill, 16-5, scrambled for a game-tying three-pointer on its final possession, but senior Deionte Wilson’s deep look didn’t draw iron as the buzzer sounded.
That sent the Park Hill South portion of a capacity crowd into a frenzy, one final energetic rush from a group that saw its team build an early 19-5 lead.
Park Hill responded to the early deficit. In a hurry, too.
The Trojans countered with a 15-0 run over the course of 3 minutes, capped by senior Landry Shamet’s alley-oop dunk. Shamet led all scorers with 24 hard-earned points, though he was limited to only three free throws in the fourth quarter.
“I knew they were going to make a run,” Parra said. “I think our kids knew they were going to make a run, too. ... They got some scorers, and they can put up a lot of points in a hurry.”
A game that featured a frantic pace in the first quarter settled on a more conventional march over the second half.
Advantage, Park Hill South.
After Park Hill built a seven-point lead early in the third quarter, the Panthers, 17-3, effectively extended their defense to limit Park Hill’s quick-firing three-point shooting. Park Hill made seven shots from behind the arc in the first three quarters and none in the fourth.
And while that defensive prowess was certainly a team effort, the offense settled on a pair of seniors — Byrd and Teeng Akoi.
Akoi came off the bench and scored nine points, and he hit a pair of putbacks midway through the fourth quarter. His biggest play of the night — a blocked shot followed by a dive out of bounds to save the ball — set up a jumper from Byrd that gave the Panthers the lead for good.
Byrd scored nine of his team’s final 10 points.
“I had to get on him a little bit because I thought he was saving his energy, so we sat him down,” Parra said. “When he came back in the game, he was a different player — the guy we’ve seen all season. We wanted the ball in his hands.”
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