Smithville got just about everything it wanted through three quarters of its William Jewell Holiday Classic opener Saturday against Liberty North.
The Warriors played stingy defense, got timely buckets, and contained Liberty North junior forward Michael Hughes with the help of foul trouble.
All of that went away in the fourth quarter, however. The Eagles scored 13 straight points while holding Smithville to just three points in the quarter and rallied for a 44-40 victory.
Liberty North, 4-3, will play Lee’s Summit West at noon Monday in the Cardinal Division semifinals in Liberty. The Eagles will do so knowing they figured out a way to win without their best effort.
“It’s a huge win because it’s our next game, because it’s our most important game,” Liberty North coach Chris McCabe said. “It’s a huge win because anytime you can win a game without playing really well, hopefully it shows that you’ve got some talent. You just need to clean some things up.”
Smithville, 2-3, had momentum heading into the fourth quarter, scoring the final six points after Liberty North scored 10 straight and tied the game at 31-31.
The Warriors started the fourth quarter by attempting to milk the clock with some deliberate offense. They were successful, but unable to find the basket after doing so. Smithville’s lone points in the fourth quarter came on Vic Cummings’ three-point play with 29 seconds left.
“We needed to pick up our intensity and emotion, and we needed to control the game ourselves. We were letting them push us around,” said Hughes, who scored nine points. “We had to step it up.”
Cummings scored a team-high 13 points, and Jackson Krull finished with 12.
“At some point, somebody’s got to make a play. On offense we kind of went into a shell in the fourth and didn’t respond,” Smithville coach Chad Jones said. “We played great basketball for three quarters, but it’s a four-quarter game. We needed someone to step up and make a shot or free throw or jump shot, and that just didn’t happen for us.”
Sophomore Dominic Fragola led Liberty North with 16 points. Twelve of those came on three-pointers well behind the high school arc. Fragola used that to his advantage by driving the baseline for the go-ahead layup midway through the fourth quarter.
“Dom, he’s a great player,” Hughes said. “He knows when to take the right shots. He’s a great shooter. He practices, he works, he spends time in the gym.”
Fragola is one asset that McCabe is intent on molding.
“I’m being really hard on him. If he can play well and consistent and tough, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good,” McCabe said.
“I put a lot of pressure on him. I hold him accountable for a lot of things, and you saw glimpses of what he can do to help the team win. That’s a welcome sign for us.”
Truman 69, Center 54
Saturday night’s finale of the Cardinal Division opening round was a rough-and-tumble, black-and-blue affair.
In other words, it was Truman’s kind of game. The Patriots put together a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, enabling them to finish off the lone first-round upset of the William Jewell Holiday Classic.
Truman will play unbeaten Blue Springs South on Monday at 1:30 p.m.
“I think we’re the kind of team that has to grind,” Truman coach Billy Guinnee said. “Although this is not the kind of game I’d like to play, it is the kind of game I think we have to play in order to be successful. Grinding for shots, grinding on defense, blocking out, being fundamental.”
Truman took advantage of Center’s aggressive defense, hitting 23 of 32 at the foul line. Reid Titus made all but three of his 15 attempts on the way to a game-high 26 points. Keith Fletcher finished with 14 points.
Center got 19 points from Robert Gillum, and eight from Allie Ragsdale.
Blue Springs South 75, Winnetonka 55
Blue Springs South came out of the locker room at halftime with the energy it lacked in the first half, and was able to put away a pesky Winnetonka team.
The Jaguars got big games from their array of talented players. Kevin Puryear led all scorers with 24 points, K.J. Robinson scored 19 points, and Brandon Filgore finished with 14.
But Blue Springs South wasn’t able to put it all together until the second half.
“Credit Winnetonka. They made shots and took the early energy out of us,” Blue Springs South coach Jimmy Cain said.
“The season is very long, and sometimes you have those four or five games where it seems like you get into quicksand. If you’re not quite energetic enough, if you’re not your usual fighting self, that can bother you. They did a good job of finding the energy needed in the third quarter.”
Winnetonka got 12 points from Willy Majok and 10 from Takota Swearngin.
Blue Springs South plays the winner of the Center-Truman game at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Lee’s Summit West 75, Fort Osage 35
Lee’s Summit West is neither as big nor as experienced as it has been in recent years. But the Titans are still quick and athletic — two traits that served them well in a victory over Fort Osage in the opening round of the Cardinal Division.
Lee’s Summit West, 3-3, used a 13-2 run, fueled by a frenetic press, to put the game away midway through the second quarter.
Senior guard Jarred Dixon scored a game-high 27 points. Three other Titans, Caleb Luallen (12 points), Joe Ganaden (10 points) and Mario Goodrich (10 points) also scored in double digits.
“If we ever get a turnover, it gets to everybody. The way we want to play is fast and up-and-down, because everybody is small,” Dixon said. “When one person gets a stop, it makes us all buy in.”
Fort Osage, 0-7, got 10 points from Aron Greer.