There won’t be a prolonged season-opening funk for Lee’s Summit North’s boys.
The Broncos quickly made sure of that.
One game after a less-than-stellar season debut, North recovered nicely for a 55-39 victory against St. Joseph Central during the opening game of the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic on Dec. 2 at Liberty High School.
North (1-1) opened its season just four days earlier, suffering a 71-51 thumping against Rockhurst on its home floor.
During that loss, the Broncos struggled to find shots and stop Rockhurst’s transition in digging an early 15-point hole.
Against St. Joe Central (1-2), the Broncos put down shots from the start, limited Central’s paths to the basket, and buried the Indians with a 21-4 second-half run.
“We had a rough night versus Rockhurst, so we knew this would be an important game to bounce back,” North guard Javaunte Hawkins said. “We played more together in the second half, and that’s what led to the blowout.”
A fast-paced offense and high-pressure defense helped, according to Broncos coach Mike Hilbert. It’s a combination that didn’t work well against Rockhurst but proved very effective against the smaller Indians.
“It was all kind of predicated on our defensive pressure,” Hilbert said. “Fortunately for us, we were able to get in the passing lanes and turn some defense into offense and gain some momentum.”
Hawkins, who struggled to get 10 points against Rockhurst, led all scorers with 23 points. He hit two of his three three-pointers in the second quarter, when the Broncos took the lead for good with a 13-0 run that helped turn a 16-13 deficit into a 26-18 lead by halftime.
“I get my shots based on my teammates,” Hawkins said. “I think that once we started playing together the defense picked up and that helped me get my confidence up and start hitting some shots down.”
Central managed to battle back within 34-32 late in the third quarter behind 6-foot-4 senior Noah Cameron, who powered to the basket for 10 of his team-high 12-points during the period.
That’s when Jack Gatti’s traditional three-point play with a minute left in the period started the Broncos’ backbreaking run, which included a 12-0 stretch in the fourth quarter. Hawkins had two baskets during the scoring run, which also included a three-pointer from Logan Jenkins, who finished with 10 points, and a left-handed baseline slam by Elijah Farr.
That allowed North to enter the closing minutes up 55-36 and well on its way to evening its season record.
Despite scratching the win column, the Broncos still aren’t quite where Hilbert wants them to be.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and these guys want to work hard” he said. “They want to get better; they want to do the right things. I think they feel that, hopefully, this might propel us into a good run into December.”