Liberty North senior Michael Hughes caught the basketball a step past the halfcourt line, and a few dribbles later, he greeted the rim with a one-handed jam. On the ensuing possession, he stepped behind the arc and drilled a three-pointer.
It wasn’t entirely a one-man show Wednesday, but there was little question who served the starring role.
Hughes had 23 points and 15 rebounds, lifting Liberty North to a 59-48 victory against Rockhurst in the Cardinal Division championship game of the William Jewell Holiday Classic.
He was selected the Cardinal Division MVP.
“I felt a little sick early, but I just caught my breath and let my teammates get me back into the game,” Hughes said. “I was able to compose myself and then try to help my team get a win.”
The Eagles, 8-1, didn’t produce much offense in the opening half.
They didn’t need to. They held Rockhurst without a field goal in the second quarter, limiting the Hawklets to only four free throws after mixing in a 12-0 spurt. The Rockhurst field goal drought stretched into the second half and lasted 10 minutes, 32 seconds. Xavier Rhodes led Rockhurst with 12 points.
“I think his defense changes the game as much as anything,” Rockhurst coach Pete Campbell said of Hughes. “He was the best player in our bracket, and maybe the entire tournament.”
Even so, Rockhurst cut the score to 36-32 in the third quarter, but Hughes responded with a layup, and Liberty North held a comfortable cushion for the remainder of the game. The Eagles won their second William Jewell tournament title after claiming their first in 2012.
Hughes led the all-tournament team, where he was joined by Rhodes, Rockhurst guard Scotty Thompson, Lincoln Prep forward Steve Dudley, Blue Springs forward Justin Hall and Southwest senior Jalen Gant.