Despite a sluggish first half, the Panthers came roaring out to take a 77-55 victory against their chief rival Friday, March 6 at St. Joseph Central High School in the Class 5 District 16 championship game. Park Hill South swept the season series with Park Hill, going 3-0 and avoiding a repeat of last year’s disappointment when the Trojans won the third meeting to end a nearly two-decade-long playoff drought.
Park Hill South junior Ryan Welty — a diverse 6-foot-7 talent — helped end the drama, tallying 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half.
“It feels really great,” Welty said. “I’ve never made it past districts, so it’s a new experience for me. I love it so far. I’ve been part of a team that has got second in districts the last two years, so it feels really great to finally get first.”
Park Hill South (23-3) — the unbeaten Suburban League Red Division champions — return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, this time under first-year coach Dan Parra. The Panthers were set to face Liberty North on Wednesday, March 11 in a Class 5 sectional at Excelsior Springs High School in Excelsior Springs, Mo.
The two teams met in the championship of December’s Liberty North Invitational, a 43-42 win for Park Hill South.
Park Hill (21-6) held early momentum toward stealing the playoff spot, avenging two losses from earlier in the season and again winning the postseason matchup between the rivals. The Trojans held a brief 31-30 lead after the first possession of the second half, but the Panthers closed the third quarter on an 18-5 run spanning 5 minutes, 10 seconds to take a 53-38 lead into the final frame.
Welty contributed seven during that stretch, including a 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer that added pep to the traveling crowd of student supporters positioned underneath the home basket. He hit five 3s in the second half and finished with six total, the first coming on Park Hill South’s opening possession of the game.
“I think he’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached,” Parra said. “I’ve coached pretty good shooters. He can flat out shoot. He can do so many other things, too. Defensively, he’s good. He’s known as a shooter, but he can do a lot more.”
Park Hill trailed 30-29 at halftime but couldn’t recover once losing touch.
Landry Shamet — the Trojans star senior point guard headed to Wichita State — finished with 24 points but was the only player for Park Hill in double figures. Fellow senior guard Louis Reinmiller and sophomore guard Dru Smith added eight points apiece.
In the final game of an accomplished career, Shamet scored 17 of Park Hill’s 26 points in the second half but could not do nearly enough to stop the Panthers’ barrage. Park Hill loses seven seniors total, including four who started most of the season (Shamet, Reinmiller, Carter Anchors and Deionte Wilson).
“(Shamet’s) a special player,” Park Hill coach David Garrison said. “I hope everyone had a chance to go watch him — not just Park Hill but high school basketball in general in Kansas City. He’s an extremely talented player and extremely unselfish player. He has the ability to play a variety positions and has incredible basketball knowledge.
“You can’t replace a player like that.”
Park Hill South again proved too diverse on offense, much like the two regular season meetings.
James Byrd, a senior guard, put up 18 points — 12 in the first half to help the Panthers keep pace during some early struggles — while Allen Hyatt chipped in 14. Eight different players scored for Park Hill South, which totaled 10 3-pointers.
“I thought we played a little selfish in the first half,” Parra said. “We weren’t passing the ball with any crispness. I didn’t think we were setting good picks. Second half, we really opened each other up. We were a lot more patient on offense.”
Park Hill tied the school record for wins in a season while coming in second in the Red Division with an 8-2 mark — the two losses both to the Panthers.
Park Hill South 74, St. Joseph Central 40
The Panthers coasted into the title game, defeating hosts in the semifinal round on Thursday, March, 5.
Byrd scored a game-high 21 points to lead the offensive efforts — including four of the Panthers’ 13 3s. Welty hit four (12 points), Easton Fortuna three (11) and Jacob Kline two (eight) in the blowout win, a much different result than an overtime victory for Park Hill South in the most recent regular season meeting.
The 30-point running clock stayed on for all of the fourth quarter with Park Hill South’s attack featuring 10 scorers, including 10 for reserve forward Teeng Akoi.
Park Hill 74, Staley 49
Shamet scored a game-high 28 points Thursday, March 5 to lead the Trojans to their second straight district title game. They built a lead to force a running clock for part of the fourth quarter before Staley closed the game on a 5-0 run.
Smith scored 11 for Park Hill while sophomore forward Tanner Zeil (nine) and Wilson (eight) also contributed big points.