Lee’s Summit West has had its sights set high this boys basketball season, high enough that a conference championship may seem a bit ho-hum.
Just don’t tell Titans coach Michael Schieber that.
After West dispatched Lee’s Summit 77-57 on Feb. 21 at the Tigers’ Fieldhouse to clinch a second consecutive Suburban Gold Conference title, Schieber considered it as great an accomplishment and, in some ways, even harder than a deep postseason run.
“Probably one of those things in basketball that gets left behind a little bit,” Schieber said. “But at the end of the day, when you’re having to play a team at home and on the road and everybody knows everybody ... it makes it hard.”
This title was a hard one for West (19-4) despite what its 9-2 conference record might indicate. The two losses — in fact, all four overall — came during a stretch in late January to early February stretch without 6-foot-10 center Yor Anei.
West’s starting lineup also was in flux due to football recruiting trips and injuries, a stretch that included a 49-48 loss against Lee’s Summit (13-11, 7-4 Suburban Gold) on the Titans’ home floor.
This time West had Anei. The Oklahoma State signee used his considerable size advantage to score 23 points and alter a host of Lee’s Summit shots. The Titans never trailed after digging out of an 11-4 hole early in the first quarter.
“We’ve got a pretty big size advantage,” Schieber said. “That was definitely a focus of what we wanted to do. I thought second half we did a pretty good job of that.”
Lee’s Summit countered that early on with some hot outside shooting from senior guard Seth Romi, who hit two three-pointers during the Tigers’ opening run. Deron McDaniel also connected from deep as Lee’s Summit went 4 of 6 behind the arc in the first quarter.
Schieber called a quick timeout after which West responded with a 16-2 run that started with an Anei putback. A dunk off a turnover from Christian Bishop, a 6-8 Creighton signee, and threes from Rich Johnson and Anthony Sirna powered the Titans to a 20-13 lead.
The Tigers trailed 25-18 after the first quarter and 42-34 by halftime but stayed within single digits with the help of 6-4 forward Will Eames, who scored a game-high 25 points despite spending most of the game guarded by the much taller Anei.
Eames hit a couple of NBA-range three-pointers during the second quarter and found points on back-door cuts in the second half.
“He’s a great player,” Anei said. “He hit me with a lot of unexpected buckets, a lot of threes. I had to respect it.”
Anei had two putbacks during an 8-2 run that opened a 50-36 lead early in the third quarter for West.
The Tigers went nearly three minutes without a bucket as a spate of fouls put the Titans at the free-throw line.
West’s lead grew to 67-47 three minutes into the fourth quarter and reached as many as 26 points late in the game.
“Our offense is a lot of screening and moving,” Eames said. “On plays when I cut, it was there. We should have used that to our advantage more than we did.”
Johnson scored 21 points and Bishop added 12 for West, which holds a two-game lead in the conference ahead of second-place Lee’s Summit with one game to play.
After finishing the regular season Friday at Lee’s Summit North, the Titans will be the No. 1 seed during next week’s Class 5, District 13 tournament at Raymore-Peculiar. The Titans will face the winner of the first-round game between Belton and Ray-Pec in the semifinals, which are set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 27.
Lee’s Summit, which closes the regular season Friday at Ray-Pec, is seeded third in the district and will face No. 2 seed North at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 27.