Park Hill South found itself in the title game of the North Kansas City tournament for the sixth consecutive year, but the Panthers had just five runner-up trophies to show for their previous efforts. The sixth time was the charm.
Park Hill South walloped Winnetonka 59-22 on Friday, taking a firm grip on the trophy that had eluded it for so long.
The previous five title game losses were all to Truman, which the Panthers, 11-5, dispatched on Thursday. Park Hill South leaped out to a 29-8 lead at halftime Friday, proving there wasn’t a lack of focus after beating a longtime nemesis.
“We’ve taken home second-place trophies the last two years. We wanted to win one. One of our goals was to win this tournament,” Park Hill South coach Rick Zych said. “I think we played pretty well. They didn’t have their best night shooting, and we capitalized on that. I think our length bothered them, and I think we were active with our hands and I was proud of the way we played defensively.”
The Panthers packed the paint defensively in their 3-2 zone defense, and the lanky Evan Hines, Allen Hyatt and Hudson Welty ate up space with their impressive wingspans.
“Sometimes it looks like we’ve got six people on the floor with all the length,” Hines said.
Hines and Payton Meek led the Panthers with 12 points each, but it was Hines who had the seminal moment on Friday.
He got above the top of the key, saw a sliver of space and turned it into a one-handed tomahawk dunk.
It was a fitting cap to Park Hill South’s tournament run.
“At first I just dribbled it to be safe and get (away) from the defense. Then it just opened up, and I was like Moses and split it,” Hines said with a laugh.
Winnetonka, 8-5, advanced to the title game for the first time in a generation. The Griffons just didn’t get the ending they wanted.
“That was the most talented team we played all year,” Winnetonka coach Todd Magwire said. “They were just unbelievable. We laid an egg. We didn’t shoot the ball well. Hats off.
“Even though we didn’t play like we wanted to, this is the first time since 1988 Winnetonka made it to the title game. Obviously we’re proud of that.”
Park Hill South is proud to finally have its elusive first title from the North Kansas City tournament. The biggest part of the season is yet to come, however.
“So far we have high expectations, but we haven’t had conference games,” Hines said. “Conference play begins next week, and we’ll go from there.”