Park Hill South girls survive late to reach district semifinal

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  —  At halftime, Park Hill South coach Jenny Orlowski scrawled a simple but telling message on the whiteboard in the locker room: “0-10 on 3-point field goals.”

The Panthers were in a struggle during a Class 5 District 16 first round matchup, and the outside shooting woes were the main culprit. After 17 straight misses, Park Hill South junior guard Grace Cunningham finally broke the drought, continuing a run that resulted in a 55-44 win against Oak Park on Monday, Feb. 29 at Oak Park High School.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill South freshman Alecia Westbrook (25), blocks a shot against Oak Park in the first round of the Class 5 District 16 tournament on Monday, Feb. 29 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo
Park Hill South freshman Alecia Westbrook (25), blocks a shot against Oak Park in the first round of the Class 5 District 16 tournament on Monday, Feb. 29 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

The win vaults Park Hill South (12-13) into a semifinal matchup with top-seeded St. Joseph Central on Thursday, March 3.

“I think it really got everybody excited and really pumped up,” Cunningham said of the 3-pointer that extended a 15-4 run over the final 3 minutes, 52 seconds. “It was a lot of intensity. It was tough because we were down. We really had to play up. It feels good. I felt ready, and I was feeling it (before I shot it).”

Cunningham finished with 10 points — one of three players for Park Hill South to score in double figures. All of her points came in the fourth quarter, which started with the score tied at 31.

Oak Park briefly tied the game at 40 when sophomore guard Gabrielle Sanchez hit a layup and drew a foul. She came into the game seconds earlier, resulting in a technical foul for not being listed in the official scorebook.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill South freshman Alecia Westbrook (25), blocks a shot against Oak Park in the first round of the Class 5 District 16 tournament on Monday, Feb. 29 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo
Park Hill South freshman Alecia Westbrook (25), blocks a shot against Oak Park in the first round of the Class 5 District 16 tournament on Monday, Feb. 29 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Sanchez missed the free throw that would have put the Lady Oakies back on top, and Park Hill South freshman forward Alecia Westbrook then gave the Panthers the lead for good. Her quick inside move started the 15-4 run to end the game, which included both of Cunningham’s 3s. 

Westbrook finished with a triple double with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks. She also tallied five steals and a team-high five assists. 

“She just keeps us in the game,” Orlowski said. “She pulls down rebounds. She knocks down passes. Defensively, I think she played one of her best games of the year tonight.”

Park Hill South sophomore guard Raquel Reid also added seven of her team-high 12 points to help the Panthers score 24 in the decisive fourth quarter. 

The win sets up a third meeting with Central, which swept the regular season meetings in Suburban Conference Red Division play. Park Hill South had lost seven of eight entering the postseason as the No. 4 seed in the five-team bracket.

Park Hill 60, Truman 42

The Trojans closed the regular season Thursday, Feb. 25 with a fifth win in a span of six games, locking up a tie for second place in the Suburban Conference Red Division at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Morgen Smith led Park Hill with 14 points, while Hannah Stout hit three of the Trojans’ six 3-pointers on her way to 11 points. Gigi Hopkins also added 11, helping Park Hill turn a tight game at halftime into a route.

Truman scored just nine points in the second half after taking a 33-28 lead into the break.
The No. 3 seed in Class 5 District 16, Park Hill (13-12) finished 7-3 in Red Division play to finish behind Liberty. St. Joseph Central — the top seed in Park Hill’s district — also finished at 7-3.

The top three teams in District 16 all received a bye, and Park Hill is scheduled to play No. 2 seed Staley at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo. The winner advances to the 5 p.m. title game scheduled for Friday, March 4. 

Liberty 51, Park Hill South 29

The Panthers dropped their regular-season finale Thursday, Feb. 25 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.

Westbrook led Park Hill South with 14 points, but the Panthers totaled just 10 points in the first half and were outscored 30-19 after halftime. Reid added seven points.

Park Hill South finished 3-7 in Red Division play, fifth out of six teams ahead of winless Ruskin.