Shawnee Mission South played the role of big brother for 3 1/2 quarters Friday night against Shawnee Mission Northwest.
Northwest would chip and claw, prod and poke just to get back into the game, and each time South shoved the Cougars back just enough to be pesky.
South’s inability to get Northwest to go away nearly came back to haunt the Raiders in a 47-44 road victory.
South, 5-4, jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game and had that same advantage going into the fourth before things started slipping away.
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It started slowly, with clean looks at the basket — the same ones that had fallen all game — rimming out. The Raiders, who had four starters with four fouls down the stretch, then started giving a textbook example of how not to finish a game: missing four straight free throws down the stretch.
“That’s where we’ve struggled lately is closing out games. We’ve made that so much harder on ourselves missing free throws,” South coach Brett McFall said. “We shoot 50 free throws a day. Everybody shoots 50, and from a senior-laden ballclub, that’s unacceptable.”
Northwest, meanwhile, started chipping away after hanging around for so long. Dylan Dirks drained his fourth three-pointer with a minute to go to pull the Cougars within four. Then he calmly made a pair of free throws (after two aforementioned South misses at the line) to get Northwest within two with 41.9 seconds to play.
South threw a blanket on Dirks when Northwest, 5-4, got a chance to take the lead for the first time with 18 seconds to play. The Raiders got a stop, and Yor Anei hit a free throw with three seconds left to push the lead to three.
Dirks got a clean look to tie the game from just beyond halfcourt, and South was finally able to breathe easy when the shot missed the mark.
“I didn’t have a very good angle (at the shot), so I couldn’t tell,” McFall said. “But, yeah, we’ll take it.”
Dirks finished with 16, and Jalen LyDay had 12.
“We just never could sustain a run, and it kind of went that way in both directions,” Northwest coach Mike Rose said. “It seemed like it was 10 points forever, and the next thing we know we’ve got a chance to win the game at the end.”
South got 15 points from C.J. Hill and 12 from A.J. Webster. The Raiders have spun their wheels a bit after a 3-0 start and hope that Friday’s win straightens them out.
“Making free throws would’ve made it a lot easier,” Hill said. “But pushing through adversity is what it’s all about. It’s a team game. … As we go along through the season, it’s a good learning experience.”