Michael Hughes’ foot felt fine Thursday night, which was good news for Liberty North and bad tidings for Sumner Academy.
Hughes, a 6-foot-7 junior battling back from an injury, scored a game-high 25 points — including 18 in the second half — and led Liberty North to a 59-44 win over the Sabres in the Thursday nightcap of the Hy-Vee Shootout at Avila University.
“That’s a huge lift for his confidence and you say the energy it gave our team,” North coach Chris McCabe said. “He’s a huge difference maker, and he has the potential to be a phenomenal player. We hope this is kind of his starting point where he can keep us ascending.”
Hughes missed the first two games of the season and has played with restricted minutes for the last four games, starting with 8 minutes and building up to 20 minutes Thursday.
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In those 20 minutes, he was dominant, adding eight rebounds and seven blocked shots. He was especially impressive in the third quarter, when he scored 14 points, including North’s first nine, helping thwart a Sumner run.
“That really got me energized and it seemed like it helped the team,” Hughes said. “I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. The more and more I play, the better I get.
“We needed to take the fight to them, and the third quarter was when we started doing that.”
Michael Wansing added nine points for the Eagles and Cale Hanson had eight.
Sumner, 2-3, led by a point at the end of the first quarter and was within striking distance of the Eagles, 3-3, until midway through the third quarter when North built a double-digit lead.
The Sabres did no favors for themselves in the fourth, missing six straight free throws and finishing the night 18 of 34 from the line. Sumner also shot just 28 percent from the field.
Sumner was led by Derek Sykes’ 17 points. Saadique Perkins added 13 points and seven rebounds
Boys: Olathe East 68, Rock Bridge 56
Olathe East used a 15-4 third-quarter run to open up what had been a tight game and hand Columbia Rock Bridge its first loss of the season.
East, 3-2, led by two points at the end of the first quarter and 32-31 at halftime. Neither team led by more than two until Dion Union’s jumper gave the Eagles a 38-34 lead early in the third.
The Hawks then began pulling away, building an 11-point lead. Rock Bridge, 5-1, momentarily stopped the bleeding with Josh Broadus’ three-pointer, but Cedrick Roland hit a three-pointer of his own with 2 seconds left and gave the Hawks a 52-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Javion Blake scored a game-high 18 points for the Hawks, while Roland and Union added 16 and 15, respectively. Josiah Talbert added 10. Broadus and Tre Williams led the Bruins with 13 points each.
Boys: Bishop Miege 56, Liberty 28
Bishop Miege seems poised to return to its place at the top of the East Kansas League this season.
The boys dominated Liberty 56-28 in the first game of the night.
Both teams appeared tight in the first quarter. Miege looked to attack the paint most of time while the Blue Jays made some three-pointers to keep it close at 13-10. But the Stags locked down defensively in the second quarter, going on a 16-3 runand extending their lead to 16 points by halftime.
Alston Jones showed off his abilities throughout, slashing to the basket and hitting the open jumpers. His 23 points led all scorers.
Jones put an exclamation on his performance with a one-handed slam dunk with 5:16 left in the third quarter, which caught the eyes of everyone in the arena.
“He’s worked hard,” Miege coach Rick Zych said. “He’s a very good player. People don’t know a lot about him because he did break his leg last season. He’s come through for us; hopefully he can continue the success.”
Joseph Gleason added 9 points for the Stags. The leading scorer for Liberty was Max Graham with 6.
Girls: Rock Bridge 50, Olathe South 41
The battle of the unbeaten teams lived up to the billing.
Olathe South struggled throughout the night with the impressive size and strength of Columbia Rock Bridge but stayed within striking distance.
The defending Class 5 champion Bruins, however, were too much and took home the 50-41 victory.
“We had a lot more turnovers than we usually do, but you have to credit Rock Bridge for that,” coach Steve Ingram said.
Along with the 20 turnovers, the other difficulty was the matchup for the Falcons’ guards.
The Bruins’ Sophie Cunningham, No. 20 in the country according to ESPN recruiting, showed why she signed with Missouri.
A 6-foot-1 guard with active hands and quick reflexes, Cunningham is a size mismatch for any team that comes up against her. She led her team with 24 points on 10 of 12 shooting, but even more impressive was her impact on the defensive end. Her seven steals put Olathe South under constant pressure while bringing the ball up and into the half court.
“Sophie’s just too tough to guard,” Ingram said. “That size is so tough to defend.”
Still Olathe South kept up the intensity on the defensive end. They out-rebounded the much taller Bruins 21-18.
Also, DejaNae Roebuck, who had the difficult assignment switching between the tall forwards for Rock Bridge, managed a good showing with 15 points and seven rebounds along with three steals. Her teammate Kacey Kennett also put together a decent offensive performance for the Falcons with 12 points even though Cunningham shadowed her.
Olathe South also dealt with the absence of Kylee Kopatich, the reigning Sunflower League Player of the Year and Kansas signee, because of a torn ACL.
“There’s no quit in them,” Ingram said. “They play so hard for each other. It’s really a joy to coach.
In fact, Olathe South did not allow the lead to rise above 10 points.
“To hang with a team like this makes you feel pretty good,” Ingram said.
Now the Falcons will regroup for the 2015 part of the season and feel confident in their upcoming Sunflower League schedule.
“We won’t play anyone better, so we can use that as a learning experience,” Ingram said.