Winnetonka upended fourth-seeded Blue Springs for a 57-49 victory Thursday in the opening round of the Patterson Division of the 34th annual Niles Media Group Holiday Basketball Tournament.
The Griffins, 4-0 — who have appeared in the Jewell tournament 17 times — will meet Lee’s Summit West in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mabee Center.
“This is our first year here, so this is a whole new experience for everyone here,” said Winnetonka senior Chris Harbison, who scored a game-best 15 points. “It’s a whole different feel to the game. It really gets you excited to play.”
The opening-game success wasn’t immediate. Blue Springs led for the majority of the first half and took a two-point advantage into the fourth quarter. Kirk Finley led the Wildcats, 2-4, with 14 points.
With the perimeter game failing — Winnetonka shot only 34 percent — the Griffins turned to their inside game in the fourth quarter and did the bulk of its damage at the free-throw line as a result. Senior A.J. Roup posted a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. He made nine of 14 free-throw attempts.
“We played hard-nosed in the fourth,” Harbison said. “We were (lackadaisical) in the first half, but we limited our turnovers and we really played great defense in the fourth.”
Liberty North 72, St. Joseph Central 50
Liberty North senior Ian Sanderford knew the Eagles would require an adjustment period after replacing four starters from a team that reached the Missouri Class 4 state tournament last March.
But it didn’t last long.
After an 0-2 start to the season, the Eagles won their sixth straight game Thursday, blowing past St. Joseph Central 72-50.
“We learned from (the two losses) that we’re not going to go anywhere if we’re all playing our own game,” said Sanderford, who scored 20 points. “We have to play as a team, and when we play as a team, we’re pretty good.”
LS West 86, Central 44
A tightly contested game for the opening quarter and a half had Central thinking upset.
That thought didn’t last.
Lee’s Summit West closed the first half on a 20-0 run and pulled away in the second half for a 86-44 win.
Titans junior Jarred Dixon led all scorers with 26 points, with Gary Davis adding 18. LaRon Fields scored 21 in the loss for Central.
The top-seeded Titans, 5-0, have won the tournament in four of their five appearances.
Raymore-Peculiar 59, Fort Osage 53
Raymore-Peculiar senior Mario Holman could sense the momentum shifting as the Panthers’ eight-point lead wilted to four midway through the fourth quarter.
Holman ensured the game wouldn’t get any closer. He made a pair of a back-to-back buckets on strong drives to push the lead back to eight.
It was part of his eight-point fourth quarter to lead Raymore-Peculiar past Fort Osage in the nightcap.
Holman finished with 14 points for the Panthers, who will meet Liberty North at 9 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals.
Sophomore Skylar Thompson paced the Indians with 17 points. Fort Osage led only once — 10-9 in the first quarter — but it didn’t trail by double digits until late in the fourth quarter.