Sixth time the charm

Park Hill South boys wash away years of frustration with NKC tourney title

The Park Hill South boys basketball team came into the title game of the 64th Annual North Kansas City Invitational battling a case of runner-up-itis.

The Panthers took second place at the Liberty North and William Jewell Holiday Classic tournaments earlier this year, but that’s not the whole story. South also came into the NKC title bout with five consecutive second-place finishes in the event, having lost to Truman in the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 finals. Park Hill South made sure the sixth time was the charm. A day after annihilating Truman in the semifinals to exorcise that ghost, South ended the suspense early in last Friday’s championship matchup against Winnetonka, which was playing in the NKC final for the first time since 1988. The Panthers bolted to a 10-2 first-quarter lead, stretched it to 29-8 at halftime and rolled to a 59-22 win. “We really wanted this one,” Park Hill South senior Payton Meek said. “We took care of (Truman) last night and our mindset tonight was we’re not leaving here without the trophy.” South, which moved to 11-4 with the win, let Tonka know right way it would not be the Griffins’ night. South senior Evan Hines capped six first-quarter points with the first of his two dunks on the night. His flush marked the midway point of a 16-0 run that ended midway through the second quarter when Tonka scored its first basket in nearly 10 minutes, cutting the South lead to 18-4. It was only a temporary respite. South ended the first half on a 9-2 run and took the 21-point lead into the halftime locker room. The Panthers picked up where they left in the second half – good ball movement on offense and a stingy 2-3 zone defense which made life miserable for the cold-shooting Tonka squad. South stretched its lead to 45-17 late in the third quarter when Hines, who finished with 12 points on the night, ignited the gymnasium with a thunderous one-handed dunk. Hines took a pass just across half-court, dribbled twice, then launched from just inside the free throw line. “In my mind, I knew (Coach Rick) Zych wanted me to pass the ball, but then I saw the lane open up,” Hines said. South enjoyed a balanced scoring line with Meek scoring 10 points and Robert Lane adding nine points off the bench. Ryan Welty netted seven points and Mitch Henderson, six. Zych said his team is playing well heading into this week, which included a game at rival Park Hill Jan. 28 and Friday night at home versus Lee’s Summit West. “Coming into this tournament, we talked about how we’ve won a lot of second-place trophies,” he said. “Our kids responded and are playing pretty well. That’s good, because we have some big games coming up.”