Raytown didn’t panic on Thursday afternoon when it almost immediately fell into a double-digit hole against North Kansas City.
The Bluejays didn’t blink when a frantic fourth-quarter rally was nullified by Deng Bol’s last-second three-pointer to send the game to overtime.
That resolve showed up again with the season on the line. Raytown erased another lead and got one final stop in securing a 64-63 upset of North Kansas City in a Class 5 District 14 semifinal at Rockhurst High School.
The Bluejays (16-11) took the lead for good when Ben Bryant stole the ball and found Aubrey Martin for the go-ahead three-pointer in the final minute of overtime.
“I was playing off, and I saw the opportunity and just went and got it,” Bryant said of the steal. “I saw my man, Aubrey.”
Martin, who scored a game-high 22 points, didn’t hesitate. Overtime basketball isn’t for the timid, and Martin was ready to capitalize.
“(Assistant) Coach (Anthony) Morgan told me to shoot the ball when I get it, and that’s what I had to do,” Martin said. “I just trust in myself.”
Raytown spent most of the game an arm’s length from North KC (22-4). But the Bluejays put together an 11-0 run — sparked by a manic press and a ridiculous bounce on a three-pointer — to get back into the game.
“Our diamond press really got us back into it. It got us some turnovers and made them play faster than I think they wanted to,” Raytown coach Cody Buford said. “Our kids just made some plays, defensively and offensively as well. I would call it a team victory.”
North KC had a chance to win at the end of the game. Eltijani Babikir drove the length of the floor with 7 seconds left, but his last-ditch effort from 12 feet away on the right wing never drew iron.
The Hornets got off to a strange start when the team bus was an hour late arriving at Rockhurst. The strangeness continued when the game started.
“As well as we played for such a long period of time this year, it’s kind of hard when things go wrong like that and we don’t have an answer for it,” North Kansas City coach Gerry Marlin said.
The Hornets got 15 points from Babikir, and 14 from both Bol and Yonathan Elful. They also struggled mightily from three-point range and committed eight turnovers across the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Most people are afraid to press us,” Marlin said. “Even teams with good presses usually don’t press us. And we worked against it in practice. We just didn’t execute well.”
Raytown executed when it had to, and the reward is the opportunity to pull one more upset on Saturday, against Rockhurst — a team that beat the Bluejays twice this season.
“We’ve just got to work hard,” Raytown’s Martin said. “We’ve got to work for it.”
Rockhurst 77, Park Hill South 53
Rockhurst and Park Hill South entered Thursday’s district semifinals with nearly identical records, and played like it through the first quarter.
Then the second quarter happened. The Hawklets (20-5) put together a 29-5 blitz that sucked all the drama out of the game and set up a rematch against Raytown on Saturday for the District 14 title.
“We just started playing as a team, and we had a defensive mindset first,” Rockhurst senior guard Xavier Rhodes said. “It carried over to the offensive end, and it just kept going and going. It was probably our best quarter, I guess. It was really good.”
Five Hawklets finished in double figures, led by 19 points from Rhodes. Darrius Hughes scored 15, and Tyler Nelson had 13.
“I knew they were stuck on 13 for a while, and someone told me it was a 17-0 run,” Rockhurst coach Pete Campbell said. “I’m just proud of them. They’ve worked really hard this season.”
Park Hill South (18-7) got a game-high 27 points from Lamel Robinson.
The Hawklets watched the end of Raytown’s overtime victory from the stands.
“They’re on a roll,” Campbell said. “They beat Park Hill South by 10 last Friday, so this game against North Kansas City wasn’t a fluke.”