Costly turnovers doom Park Hill girls in Northtown Classic opener

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Kansas City freshman guard Chandler Prater, left, knocks the ball away Park Hill senior guard Maliah Hudson during the Trojans pool-play opener on Monday, Feb. 1 at North Kansas City High School in North Kansas City, Mo. NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A returning playoff qualifier, Park Hill again finds itself attempting to compete with top-tier teams.

No easy task this season with difficult draws into each of three regular season tournaments. The Trojans committed 26 turnovers in a 52-24 loss to host North Kansas City on Monday, Feb. 1 in the opener of the Northtown Classic.

Park Hill dropped to 8-9 entering a second pool play game scheduled against St. Joseph Central for Tuesday, Feb. 2. The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline, but the Trojans were seeking a consolation path for the third time this season.

“We just didn’t play very well,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “You can’t turn the ball over that many times and expect to win.”

Park Hill would advance to the third-place game with a win against Central or to another fifth-place game with a loss. The Trojans were fifth in the Bobcat Invitational last month and seventh in the season-opening Winnetonka Invitational.

So far this season, Park Hill has not won nor lost more than two games in a row.

North Kansas City took a 29-18 lead into halftime and then held the Trojans to just five points in the third quarter. Hornets freshman Chandler Prater scored a game-high 25 points, including an audacious buzzer-beater to end the third quarter that gave them a 43-22 lead.

Park Hill briefly faced a running clock before Gigi Hopkins hit a pair of free throws with 27.4 seconds left for the Trojans’ only points of the fourth quarter. Hopkins and freshman guard Taiya Bryant each finished with team-high six points. No other player scored more than three points with seniors Amanda Alexander, Maliah Hudson and Mackenzie Jones scoring three each.

“Our turnovers affected our attitude,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “When our attitude went, we just stopped making plays. We started feeling sorry for ourselves. The kids almost care to a fault.”

St. Pius X 55, Park Hill South 32

A two-point second quarter doomed the Panthers to the consolation side of the bracket on Monday, Feb. 2 at North Kansas City High School.

Park Hill South freshman forward Alecia Westbrook tallied a team-high 10 points and grabbed six rebounds, but the Panthers shot 29 percent from the field including 0-for-8 on 3-point tries. No other player scored more than five.

With the loss, Park Hill South fell into a matchup with Kearney in the consolation semifinals of the hybrid bracket scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3. The consolation final is set for Friday, Feb. 5.

The loser of the matchup will be out of the tournament with only seven teams in the field.