Park Hill South kept hanging around during the first half Friday, Feb. 13, hoping to score an upset and end its winless Suburban League Red Division campaign. Park Hill finally responded after untimely technical foul on coach Aaron Neeser with a pair of extended runs on the way to a 53-32 victory at Park Hill South High School.
“I really didn’t know how we were going to pull that win off,” Park Hill senior guard Jaleiyah Gibbs said, admitting how bad the struggles became early.
Park Hill entered off of losses to Blue Springs South in the Northland Classic title game and the first home defeat of the season when an extended drought allowed Truman to pull away for a win earlier in the week.
Plenty of motivation existed for the Trojans, but they couldn’t get out of their own way during a dismal first half for both teams. Park Hill South took a 13-8 lead after hitting 3-of-4 free throws on one possession midway through the second quarter. First, an official whistled Trojans guard Maliah Hudson for a foul in the backcourt as she attempted to corral a loose ball after poking it away from a Park Hill South guard.
Neeser expressed some mild displeasure with the official and earned a surprising technical foul — a culmination of all the frustratingly sloppy play.
“I think we have to be mentally tough. I think that’s our biggest problem right now,” Gibbs said.
Park Hill went on to close the half on a 10-1 run to take a 19-15 lead after the break and then ended the Panthers’ hope for an upset early in the second half.
After scoring eight in the second quarter, Gibbs tallied five more in the third quarter on her way to a team-high 14 points, and Riana Everidge scored seven of her 13 points to help the Trojans open the half on a 13-0 run. Gigi Hopkins hit a pair of 3s in the fourth quarter, as Park Hill’s lead grew to as many as 27 before Neeser emptied the bench.
In the end, Park Hill’s biggest stretch ended at a 24-3 run spanning nearly seven minutes.
“I think the kids realized at halftime that we needed to play more our style of basketball, which is being aggressive offensively and defensively,” Neeser said. “This game always brings out more emotion than is needed. If you treat every game the same and prepare the same, good things happen. I just think we lost our mind a little bit.”
All eight of Park Hill South’s players scored, but Sydney Baska led the way with nine points. The Panthers didn’t tally more than nine in any quarter and were outscored 34-17 in the second half despite hitting three of their five 3-pointers — one each for Baska, Mackenzie Stout (four points) and Emily Dinovo (five points). Park Hill and Park Hill South could meet again later this season.
In the Class 5 District 16 bracket released this week, Park Hill drew the top seed. Park Hill South is the No. 5 out of five teams and plays Oak Park in a first-round game scheduled for Monday, March 2 at St. Joseph’s Central High School. The two teams have met twice this season with Park Hill South winning the first matchup 52-29 at the Winnetonka Tournament but losing by 19 a month later in early January.
The winner plays Park Hill at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3.
Liberty girls 58, Park Hill 37
The Trojans started slow at the beginning of each half on the way to their third loss in a span of four games.
The undefeated leader of the Suburban League Red Division, Liberty (19-3, 7-0) hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 10-2 run to open the first quarter Monday, Feb. 16 at Liberty High School, prompting a timeout from Neeser. Park Hill (15-7, 4-3) was down 16-3 after the first quarter but scored the final seven points of the first half to close within 29-22.
Everidge scored seven of her team-high 20 points in the first half, while Katie Reichert tallied all eight of her points before the break.
Liberty outscored the Trojans 29-15 in the second half, starting the third quarter on an 8-0 run. Park Hill remains in third place in the Red Division standings with three games to play in the regular season.
St. Joseph Central 56, Park Hill South 41
The Indians hit five of their seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, building a lead that would not be overcome on Monday, Feb. 16 at St. Joseph Central High School.
Jaelyn Haggard hit the final trey of the opening 8 minutes at buzzer to give the Indians a 19-6 advantage. Park Hill South cut the lead from a game-high 25 points with a solid fourth quarter against mostly reserves. The Panthers dropped to 6-17, 0-7 in Red Division play.
Baska scored 15 points, and Stout added 11 for Park Hill South, which has lost eight straight.