Cass County Sports

Broncos, Titans girls squeak through district semifinals to set up rematch

Lee’s Summit West’s Sydney Brooks (center) protected the ball as Belton’s Mackenzie Staats (left) and Kyndal Lewis tried for a steal during a Class 5, District 13 semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, at Ray-Pec. Brooks’ top-seeded Titans advanced with a 44-27 victory against the Pirates.
Lee’s Summit West’s Sydney Brooks (center) protected the ball as Belton’s Mackenzie Staats (left) and Kyndal Lewis tried for a steal during a Class 5, District 13 semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, at Ray-Pec. Brooks’ top-seeded Titans advanced with a 44-27 victory against the Pirates. Special to The Star

The Class 5, District 13 girls’ basketball final will feature the co-champions of the Suburban Gold Conference.

Top-seeded Lee’s Summit West fended off fourth-seeded Belton’s bid for an upset in district semifinal for the second straight year with a 44-27 win, while second-seeded Lee’s Summit North held off third-seeded Raymore-Peculiar 42-40 on Tuesday during postseason play at Ray-Pec.

Neither the Titans nor Broncos had a particularly easy journey to the district-title game showdown.

Belton (11-15), which knocked off an undefeated and top-seeded North squad 47-46 last year in the district semifinals, aimed for another shocker before West (19-5) got its offense going in the second half.

“It’s weird,” Titans coach Jeff Hardin said, “but sometimes it helps to be in that play-in game, because they got their jitters out last night and they came out and played real well against us. The whole game. We just stepped up a little bit in the second half, but they played a real good game all game.”

The Pirates only trailed 16-15 at halftime, providing the potential for another upset.

“We knew were just as good,” Belton coach Brad Batchelder said. “We played right with them. We missed some easy ones. We didn’t convert from the free-throw line. That really hurt us in the third quarter. We missed some easy ones that went the other way and were easy ones for them, and we had to play from behind. That’s not who we are.”

The Pirates led 21-18 early in the third quarter on a Kamryn Estell layup but only managed six points the rest of the game.

The Titans took control with a 9-0 run on layups by Sydnee Kemp and Abby Massengill, a Kenzie Beeler three-pointer and a pair of Morgan Pietig free throws.

Missed opportunities — missed free throws and turnovers — kept Belton from answering as West’s Lesley Lovelace caught fire, scoring 11 of her 13 points in the second half, including nine straight as the Titans stretched the lead to 36-24.

“We didn’t score a ton,” Hardin said. “We’re used to scoring close to 60, so they did a good job of guarding us, and we didn’t shoot awesome, but we did start finishing at the rim.”

Kemp finished with 10 points for West, while Lewis scored a game-high 15 for Belton.

During the second semifinal, host Ray-Pec (12-13) gave North (19-5) all it could handle in a physical, see-saw affair.

, setting up a third match-up between the Broncos and Titans a 5:30 pm Friday at Ray-Pec for the final. Each team won their home game against the other, the only loss each team suffered in conference play to share the title.

Senior center Aiyana Johnson led all scorers with 16 points.

The Broncos jumped out to a 9-3 lead, but the scrappy Panthers stayed within 20-19 at halftime.

When North surged in front 29-24 behind a couple Tiana Gipson threes and a Micaela Dickerson transition layup, missed free throws — including three straight from senior Aiyana Johnson, who scored a game-high 16 points, and the front end of two one-and-ones — helped Ray-Pec stay close.

“Boy, free throws, my goodness,” Broncos coach Tricia Lillygren said. “Five of 16 I think in the second half. We could have put the ballgame away just by hitting a few more free throws. That’s what it is when it comes to this point in the season, right? We’re now 1-0, so we just have to go back to the drawing board and get prepared for the next one and try to win that one again at least by one point.”

Instead, North had to rely on its defense, which kept Ray-Pec scoreless for more a 4:14 stretch in the third quarter.

Only three Panthers, all post players, scored in the second half. Junior Sydney Dosch scored eight of her 10 points after halftime, while senior Shelby Martinez added six of her nine points and junior Bergan Hilger scored four.

“They were very physical,” Ray-Pec coach Jonathan Benson said. “We tired to preach toughness, and they were every bit of that tonight. Johnson is a great player, and she’s physical. We didn’t back down tonight. Our posts stepped up to the challenge.”

Still, it was 39-36 late in the fourth quarter when a pivotal steal iced the Broncos’ win.

“We had gotten beat on the high-low pass a couple of times and we said, ‘Bottom line is we’ve got to defend that high-low pass, and we’ve got to have team defense. We’ve got to slide over and get that steal,’” Lillygren said. “And I thought that Micaela did exactly that: slid over. We got that turnover, and I think that was the critical moment in the ballgame. Had they made that catch and that score, it could have turned out very different.”

Now, the Broncos and Titans, who split two regular-season meetings with both team winning as the visiting team, meet for the district crown at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Ray-Pec.

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