Park Hill South senior Allen Hyatt didn’t speak much in the initial aftermath of the Panthers’ Missouri Class 5 state-championship loss on Saturday. But in a predictably somber postgame press conference, the few sentences he offered perhaps perfectly summarized the Panthers’ season.
“We changed Park Hill South basketball,” he said quietly. “We changed the mentality of it. It was an awesome year. We just came up a little bit short (in the state championship).”
A record-setting year, in fact.
In a bid for the high school program’s first state championship, Park Hill South finished 26-4 — the most victories in school history. That included an outright Suburban Red Conference championship.
They had won 15 straight games prior to Saturday’s 71-57 loss to Blue Springs South inside Mizzou Arena. And they took out the state’s top-ranked team, Chaminade, in the semifinals.
In dramatic fashion, too. The Panthers trailed Chaminade by 13 points in the second half before they came roaring back for a stunning victory.
Not a bad introductory season for first-year Panthers coach Dan Parra.
“We wanted to change Park Hill South — just the perception of it,” Parra said. “We wanted to get to places it’s never been before. To finish second in the biggest class in the state of Missouri, when nobody thought we were going to do anything, it’s a huge accomplishment.
“They’ll look back one day and go, ‘Wow. 26-4. That’s a really good year.’”
The Panthers will return leading scorer Ryan Welty next season. Welty averaged 15.9 points per game as a junior.
But they will graduate eight seniors, including Hyatt and starting guards James Byrd and Mitch Henderson.
Byrd will be a particularly tough-to-replace scorer in the Panthers’ lineup. He averaged 19.9 points per game over the final five games of the postseason.