Raytown was in need of a little spark as it battled through the final minutes of a gritty game against Staley on Thursday night. And Blue Jays junior Desmond Hutson was eager to oblige.
Hutson sailed above the rim, snagged a pass from teammate Devin Drew and slammed the ball down for an emphatic dunk with just over three minutes to play.
The slam woke up a quiet Mabee Center crowd, put the Blue Jays up comfortably and gave them the momentum they needed to hold on for a 44-40 victory in the Cardinal Division of the William Jewell Holiday Classic in Liberty.
Hutson’s slam also brought some artistry to an inelegant game that saw Raytown (5-2) and Staley (3-5) shoot a combined 4 for 29 from three-point range and about 35 percent from the field. Hutson was looking for an opportunity to shake things up, and his dunk did the trick for the Blue Jays.
“It was just something that I envisioned,” said Hutson, a 6-foot-4 guard. “I knew it was going to give my team momentum, so I rose up and tried it.”
That dunk put Raytown up 39-30, the largest lead either team enjoyed in the back-and-forth game. The larger margin proved short-lived: Hutson hung a little too long on the rim and received a technical foul. Bennett Holloway swished both free throws for Staley, then popped a three-pointer on the Falcons’ next possession to make it a 39-35 game.
That three-pointer, by the way, was one of only three the Falcons made on 17 attempts. Raytown was 1 for 12 behind the arc.
The Blue Jays also struggled at the free-throw line, making only 11 of 20 attempts. They made just 2 of 6 over the final two minutes, and that helped Staley creep back within 43-40 with 15 seconds to go.
“We were coming off a long break, so our energy was not there,” Hutson said. “Me being who I am, I try to hype our team up a lot with whatever I can do.”
Raytown hadn’t played since Dec. 16, but Blue Jays coach Cody Burford didn’t think that was their biggest problem. Staley’s 2-3 zone proved difficult, especially on a night when the Blue Jays couldn’t shoot well from outside.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Buford said. “Staley is well coached and we just had to grind it out.”
After battling to a 12-12 tie after the first quarter, Raytown eked out a 20-18 lead at halftime and never trailed after opening up a 29-23 lead midway through the third period. Staley closed back within 32-30 before the fourth quarter, but the Falcons went almost five minutes without a basket as Raytown opened its lead.
With an emphatic assist from Hutson.
“We needed a spark or something, and Desmond’s dunk really gave us a lift,” Buford said.
Hutson finished with 11 points for Raytown, as did Robert Proctor. Raytown also got nine points and eight rebounds from Devin Drew. The Blue Jays shot 38 percent from the field to go with their struggles from outside and the line. Still, they survived and will play Lee’s Summit West in the semifinals on Friday afternoon.
“I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day,” Buford said.
Thursday’s other games
▪ Lee’s Summit West 60, Summit Christian Academy 44: Summit Christian Academy came back from 14 down in the first quarter and 20 down in the third to make a game of it against No. 1 ranked Lee’s Summit West in a Cardinal Division first-round game. Summit Christian, making its first-ever appearance in the Holiday Classic, pulled within 50-44 before LS West forward Christian Bishop went on a one-man 8-0 run. Bishop had three dunks in the streak and led the Titans with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Malachi Butler had 16 points for the Titans.
▪ Park Hill South 54, St. Joseph Central 37: CJ Lee scored 13 points to lead three Park Hill South players in double figures in the Patterson Division consolation bracket game. The Panthers will play Raymore-Peculiar for fifth place on Saturday afternoon.
▪ Raymore-Peculiar 87, Smithville 27: Raymore-Peculiar raced out to a 29-2 lead in the first quarter and rolled in a Patterson Division consolation-bracket contest. Wesley McCullough scored 21 points and Kian Scroggins had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead Ray-Pec.
▪ Center 65, Truman 41: Chris Godwin scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Center’s Nelson Division consolation-bracket victory. Center had three other players in double figures and took control with a 23-4 third quarter. The Yellowjackets will play Fort Osage for fifth place Saturday afternoon.
▪ Fort Osage 42, Winnetonka 41: Fort Osage, which lost in overtime to Park Hill in the first round, held on after taking a 29-20 halftime lead in the Nelson Division consolation bracket. Chade Sederwall led Fort Osage with eight points.
▪ Liberty 77, Lincoln Prep 47: Tavis Turner had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead Liberty to an easy victory in a Cardinal Division first-round contest. Quianan Rieves scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Lincoln Prep.
▪ Blue Springs South 53, Kearney 42: In Thursday’s nightcap, Ethan Swanegan scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Jaguars in the Cardinal Division first-round game. Gavin Frizzell led Kearney with 15 points.