Buzzer-beater downs Park Hill girls in home opener

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ball perched agonizingly on the rim at Park Hill High School before falling in as the buzzer continued to sound. Liberty North guard Kailee Knudsen provided the final lead change in a back-and-forth 48-46 win against Park Hill on Monday, Dec. 14 at Park Hill High School. Her shot went up at the last possible moment and fell through to send the visiting bench into a frenzy of celebration.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen Photo Park Hill junior forward Morgen Smith, (34) goes up for a shot while Liberty North forward Lizzie Stark (11) applies pressure during Park Hill’s home opener on Monday, Dec. 14 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

For Park Hill, the loss marked another chapter to a frustrating start to the season. The Trojans made the Class 5 playoffs last season to break a two-decade drought but have started just 2-4, including a split of two overtime games and four games decided by single digits (1-3).

“I hope they learn to execute down the stretch,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “We’ve played a million close games this year. We just haven’t been able to find the right combination to get us over the hump.”

The fourth quarter featured seven lead changes.

Park Hill entered the final 8 minutes with a 37-34 lead. Morgen Smith — a junior forward — finished with a team-high 11 points (six in the first quarter) for the Trojans, but she only scored once in the fourth quarter after getting into foul trouble late.

Smith briefly went to the bench after diving for a loose ball and colliding with a Liberty North player in the final minute. She returned to the lineup but air-balled the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation with 16 seconds left before Knudsen’s winning shot.

“I would say everyone’s blood pressure is really high,” Neeser said. “I hope the fans are taking medicine.”

No other player scored in double figures for the Trojans, but junior guard Gigi Hopkins tallied eight while junior guard Alex Berger and senior guard Maliah Hudson chipped in six apiece.

North Kansas City 52, Park Hill 37

The Hornets pulled away with 19 points in the third quarter Thursday, Dec. 10 in North Kansas City, Mo. Berger led all scorers with 12 points, but the Hornets hit five 3-pointers and enjoyed an advantage of 18 free throw attempts to the Trojans’ five. Neither team shot well from the line — 9-for-18 for North Kansas City and 1-for-5 for Park Hill.

Mackenzie Jones hit both of Park Hill’s 3-pointers and finished with six points.