For the second year in a row, the Park Hill season came to an end at the hands of Liberty.
The Blue Jays used a late surge to pull away from the Trojans for a 61-53 victory in a Class 5 Sectional game on Wednesday, March 7, at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Mo.
The two teams met in the same location last year with the Blue Jays winning 57-45.
The Trojans forged a tie late but couldn’t get the go-ahead basket against Liberty.
“It looked like a typical game,” Park Hill coach Chad Jones said. “We had a big run, got it tied with about 4 minutes to go. We wanted to take the lead, held onto the ball and take care of business. Unfortunately, that is what Liberty did. It was tight throughout; they just shot a little bit better.”
Park Hill (17-11) took an early lead in contest, holding an 11-10 advantage after the first quarter behind a combined nine points from Cecil Lee and Ronnie Bell.
The Blue Jays (21-7) then opened up the inside game to Tavis Turner, who scored nine of Liberty’s 18 points in the quarter. The Blue Jays surged ahead 28-23 at the break, thanks to limiting Bell and Lee to two points in the second quarter.
Lee ran into foul trouble early in the first quarter and missed a good portion of the second quarter, which led to the 6-foot-5 Turner boosting the Blue Jays offense.
Liberty, a Class 5 semifinalist, hit a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter to extend its lead to 42-35 going into the fourth. Bell scored eight in the frame for the Trojans, who beat Liberty 58-57 on Jan. 18 on a buzzer-beater by Bell.
Park Hill tied the game at 48-48 midway through the fourth quarter, but Liberty called a timeout to regroup.
“When Liberty called the timeout, we told the kids let’s get another bucket or two and get the ball in Willy (Majok) or Ronnie’s hand,” Jones said.
Liberty made a basket out of the timeout and never trailed. Park Hill pulled within three with 2 ½ minutes left to play in the final frame, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Liberty had a balanced scoring attack, led by 14 each by Jalen Lewis and Logan Steenstra. Turner had 12 and Grant Stubbs scored 10.
Bell scored 20 points in his final game for the Trojans, while Lee had 12 points.
The game was the final one for five seniors, including three starters in Bell, Lee and Majok — the latter two will have chance to play basketball at the next level Jones said.
“We had a great run,” Jones said of the back-to-back district titles. “It’s been a while since we won back-to-back title. We were pretty happy it happened.”
The last time that happened was in the 1989-90 and 1990-91 season, when Jones was a freshman and sophomore on the Park Hill teams.
The Trojans will return key players in Ryan Graves, Haden Wallace and Nic Zeil next year, in what Jones calls a ‘reloading’ situation.
“We have some holes, but we got a good junior class and the lower levels are very talented,” he said.