Shawnee Mission West’s Darrell Stewart has no issue not being a starter. One thing is certain, though.
The guy can finish.
Stewart, a 6-foot-3 junior, scored a team-high 16 points Friday night, guiding SM West to a 51-36 triumph at SM Northwest. If anything, Stewart was balanced. He scored eight points in each half.
“As long as I do what I need to do in the game, that’s what matters,” said Stewart when asked if he would prefer to be in the starting lineup. “If I play hard, the right way, I knew I’d be able to do some stuff.”
Speaking of stuffs, Stewart had a couple of them. The first one definitely counts as highlight reel material. Teammate Louis Rollins launched a pass from the paint past midcourt, where he connected with Stewart, who capped it off with a monster jam.
“He’s an explosive player,” said Rollins, a senior who contributed 15 points. “He’s young. If he goes up strong, he’s hard to guard.”
SM West, 8-10, now has won back-to-back games. The Vikings rolled to a 7-0 advantage in this one and never trailed. They led by 13 in the third quarter before SM Northwest made it interesting. The Cougars sliced the Vikings’ lead to 36-29 on a Douglas DeBose layup with 1 minute, 47 seconds left in the period.
Close games are nothing new for SM West. The Vikings, though, too often have finished on the wrong end of them. They’ve lost five games by four points or less, but they had an answer this time. SM West produced a 7-1 burst following DeBose’s basket, eliminating any late drama.
“We’ve played a lot of close games,” SM West coach Ryan Darst said. “The guys have been tough and continue to fight every game. That’s what I love about them.”
SM Northwest hasn’t had enough moments to love this season. The Cougars dropped to 2-16.
“We got it (deficit) to seven and we turned the ball over the next couple of possessions. We just turned the ball over way too much tonight,” Cougars’ coach Mike Rose said, “and we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. They (SM West) are a solid basketball club, but we just shot ourselves in the foot so many times.”
Austin Sanders, a 6-6 junior, scored 11 points for the Cougars.
SM Northwest got into the one-and-one with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter, but never managed to use it in its favor.
“We fouled a little too much,” Darst said, “but I like our defensive intensity.”
As the season nears its final stages, Stewart likes the direction SM West is headed. He is a key reason why the Vikings are on a solid path these days.
“It feels really good,” Stewart said. “We just have to keep playing the way we know we can.”