Park Hill, Park Hill South girls ousted in district semifinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill mounted a late-season run that pointed toward a possible playoff return.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Park Hill junior guard Gigi Hopkins, left, goes in for a layup against Staley’s Victoria DeFerraris during a Class 5 District 16 semifinal Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Park Hill junior guard Gigi Hopkins, left, goes in for a layup against Staley’s Victoria DeFerraris during a Class 5 District 16 semifinal Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Drawing the No. 3 seed in Class 5 District 16, the Trojans’ postseason opener came in a semifinal matchup with Staley. Park Hill fell behind in the first half but eventually came back to take a pair of one-point leads in the fourth quarter Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School.
Staley responded both times, scoring 11 unanswered in the final 3 minutes to come away with a 48-41 win.

Park Hill’s season finished at 13-13 with four seniors that helped make the Trojans into a playoff qualifier in 2015, breaking a two-decade drought between district titles. They ended up with only one more postseason game after winning five of their final six entering districts this season.

“I feel bad for our seniors,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “They’ve been a solid group of kids for four years, helped build up the program. I hate to see them go out like that.”

Park Hill fell behind by nine in the third quarter, but senior Maliah Hudson’s driving layup at the third quarter buzzer cut the deficit to 34-28 with 8 minutes left.

Staley answered, but Gigi Hopkins’ layup gave the Trojans their final lead at 38-37.

The last swing came when Lindsey Gilbert buried a 3-pointer from the right wing for the Falcons, prompting a timeout with 3:04 left to settle down the pace. Park Hill wouldn’t score again until its final possession with Staley slowly lengthening its lead out to double digits for the only time in the game.

“We didn’t play our best, and when you don’t play your best, the other team’s going to get you. And they got us,” Neeser said.

Early baskets for junior forward Morgen Smith (six points) and Alex Berger (five points) gave Park Hill an early 4-0 lead. Staley didn’t score for the first 3½ minutes and trailed 10-6 after the first quarter, but a 7-0 run that extended to 10-2 put the Falcons ahead, a lead that held until the fourth quarter.

Berger and Stout both hit 3s late in the second quarter, but the Trojans went into halftime down 22-18.

Hopkins scored the first four of the second half for Park Hill on the way to a team-high 10 points. Overall, Park Hill struggled to find consistent scoring until the early flurry in the fourth quarter provided hope of a comeback.

“We talked about rebounding and finishing,” Neeser said. “They outrebounded us, and we didn’t finish very well. That’s why we got the result we got.”

St. Joseph Central 73, Park Hill South 47

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Park Hill South freshman forward Alecia Westbrook, rear, picks up an offensive foul during a Class 5 District 16 semifinal against St. Joseph Central on Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Park Hill South freshman forward Alecia Westbrook, rear, picks up an offensive foul during a Class 5 District 16 semifinal against St. Joseph Central on Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

The Panthers season came undone in a first half flurry Thursday, March 3 at Oak Park High School.

In the other Class 5 District 16 semifinal, Park Hill South took two early leads before ceding a 13-0 run. Central outscored the Panthers 40-13 in the final 15 minutes of the first half with senior guard Mayleigh Oder’s running shot at the buzzer closing the deficit to 43-18 at the break.

Raquel Reid, a sophomore, hit a 3 on the game’s opening possession to put Park Hill South up 3-0. Alecia Westbrook’s first basket regained the lead for the Panthers at 5-4.

After the following scoreless drought, Park Hill South trailed by double digits the rest of the way and faced a running clock entering the fourth quarter. Reid, Westbrook and Emily Dinovo scored 11 points apiece. Dinovo hit three 3s in the second half.

Park Hill South finished 11-14 with just two wins in February.