Lee’s Summit basketball coach Blake Little wasn’t looking for anything complex from his Tigers in the second half on Wednesday night. What the Tigers needed to do was plain and simple.
“I just wrote one word on the board, and it was ‘toughness,’” Little said. “They were just a lot tougher than us in the first half.”
After falling behind 14 points early against Park Hill South, Lee’s Summit toughened up in the second half and battled back for a 61-57 victory in the William Jewell Holiday Classic at William Jewell’s Mabee Center. Lee’s Summit (5-2) buckled down in the lane and hit the boards harder in the final two quarters, but the difference was more overall toughness than any change of strategy.
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“The things we needed to do to be successful we didn’t do,” Little said. “I don’t know if we just weren’t ready or what.”
Lee’s Summit didn’t look ready in the first quarter. Park Hill South (6-3) went on a 14-0 run fueled by wide-open three-pointers from Lamel Robinson and rugged inside play from forward CJ Lee for a 14-4 lead.
Lee’s Summit started chipping away in the second quarter but still trailed 35-25 at halftime. Lee had 10 points and nine rebounds by halftime, and the Panthers had a 22-9 edge on the boards.
“What really lit the fire under us was coach Little’s speech at halftime,” Lee’s Summit senior guard Seth Romi said. He was letting us know we had to be tougher and come together as a team. And when we started sharing the ball and talking on defense more, that’s when we started having success.”
Lee had only four more points and two rebounds the second half, and Robinson, who finished with a game-high 23 points, managed only four points in the third quarter. A 9-0 run gave Lee’s Summit its first lead at 38-37, and the teams battled five lead changes before ending the third quarter tied 44-44.
Lee’s Summit and Park Hill South continue swapping leads until an and-one by Nate Jones put the Tigers up for good 57-56 with 2:40 to play. Jaden Moore, who led the Tigers with 18 points, made 3 of 6 free throws down the stretch to preserve the lead.
Will Eames, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, boarded a missed free throw in the closing minutes to help keep the Tigers ahead. Park Hill South got the ball back with 15 seconds left but the Panthers’ Joe Badalucco missed a three-pointer.
“I was really proud of the effort,” Little said. “Really proud of the fact we continued to scrap and fight the whole time.”
Lee’s Summit will play Oak Park in the Patterson Division semifinals at noon Friday.
Wednesday’s other games
▪ Blue Springs 74, Center 67: Daniel Parker had 32 points and 12 rebounds to lead Blue Springs in the tournament opener. Daryl Wright led Center with 25 points and 11 boards.
▪ North Kansas City 70, Truman 35: Northtown played like the No. 1 seed in the Nelson Division in rolling over Truman. TJ Babikir and D’Anthony Pennington had 16 points each to lead the Hornets.
▪ Park Hill 68, Fort Osage 63 OT: Ronnie Bell pumped in 31 points, but Park Hill struggle to put away Fort Osage in a Nelson Division opener. Dez Griswold had 20 points and Xavier Kahube added seven points and 10 rebounds for Fort Osage.
▪ Rockhurst 69, Winnetonka 23: The Hawklets jumped out to a 20-6 first-quarter lead and never looked back in its Nelson Division opener. Xavier Rhodes led Rockhurst with 23 points.
▪ Oak Park 47, St. Joseph Central 16: Oak Park led 18-4 after the first quarter and was never challenged in its Patterson Division opener. Oehai Agbaji scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Ahmad Louis had 13 points for the Northmen.
▪ Liberty North 49, Raymore-Peculiar 33: Robbie Hanson scored 12 points and Maceleb Hughes added 11 for Liberty North, which never trailed after outscoring Ray-Pec 18-5 in the second quarter. Ray-Pec, which shot 28.9 percent from the field, was led by Kian Scroggins’ 12 points.
▪ Grandview 73, Smithville 28: Mason Taylor scored 26 points to lead Grandview’s rout in the final Patterson Division opener.