RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Jenny Orlowski got a bit nervous after halftime as Park Hill South’s lead carefully crafted against Raytown South in the first half began to dwindle. The once comfortable margin nearly became single digits at the end of the third quarter before the Panthers pulled away again for a 52-31 win at Park Hill South High School, much to the relief of their coach. “When they made that run at us and cut it to 10, I got pretty nervous,” Orlowski said. “I was proud of the way we came back, stuck with it and got back in the game.”
Raytown South went on an 8-0 run to end the third quarter to bring the deficit to 35-25. With Orlowski’s encouragement, the lead again swelled as the Panthers answered with nine unanswered before ballooning the advantage to 27 near the end of the game.
Park Hill South enters its Christmas break with a 5-3 record after the win. A year ago, the Panthers were at 4-4 before closing the season with just seven wins overall, including a 1-9 Suburban Conference Red Division record.
The next game for Park Hill South will be Monday, Jan. 4, before kicking off Red Division play at home against rival Park Hill a week later.
The win against Raytown South looked easy, and the hot start fueled the players’ confidence. However, the lull showed how winnable games can get away.
“You try to keep them focused,” Orlowski said. “I think they can get lulled into that where they don’t work very hard. I kind of yell at them a lot during timeouts. Well, I guess I didn’t really yell, just encouraged them loudly, let’s put it that way.”
Park Hill South freshman forward Alecia Westbrook became a large part of the success, ending with 21 points and 20 rebounds. She scored 10 in the first quarter and recorded her sixth double-double in eight games before halftime with 16 points and 12 boards at the break.
The 6-foot-1 forward currently averages 14.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had a player average a double-double, especially as a freshman,” Orlowski said. “She’s playing well. I think she has more potential. I think she has more in her. I’m trying to get that out of her. I think she’s going to do tremendous things as she gets older.”
Park Hill South senior forward Ashton Gray also took advantage of the Panthers’ size advantage on the inside with eight points. Raquel Reid (seven), Grace Cunningham (seven) and Mayleigh Oder (six) combined to provide the bulk of the remaining offense.
Park Hill South shot 0-for-8 from 3-point range and 10-for-24 at the free-throw line.
Park Hill 61, Winnetonka 29
The Trojans dominated the second half to go into the holiday break with a blowout victory.
Gigi Hopkins scored a career-high 23 points, helping Park Hill outscore the Griffins 30-8 in the second half Thursday, Dec. 17 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo. The Trojans — Class 5 District 16 champions a year ago — are 3-4 and don’t play again until Jan. 5 at Platte County.
Mackenzie Jones and Kennedi Dorrell added nine points apiece in the win for Park Hill, which trailed 15-13 after the first quarter.