KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chad Jones didn’t have exactly the debut lineup he expected for the season-opener.
Park Hill’s coach put five new starters on the floor Friday, Dec. 1 at Park Hill High School coming off of last year’s run to the Class 5 playoffs. With senior guards Ronnie Bell (injury) and Willy Majok (ineligible) not available, the Trojans showed signs of life early and late in a 63-51 loss to North Kansas City — stocked with returners from its own appearance in a Class 5 sectional.
The inexperience showed with foul trouble piling up in the first half before turnovers helped create a big deficit in the third quarter.
“We showed our immaturity with the lineup we had today toward the end of the first half and beginning of the second half where we just turned the ball over and got a little sloppy,” Jones said. “Start of the game, I thought our kids were running our stuff pretty well and we were under control and we weren’t turning it over too much. And then at the end of the game, we had some good fight. We fought back and didn’t quit.
“But that middle portion, I’m sure will look ugly on film.”
Jones used three timeouts in a span of four minutes in the third quarter in an effort to spark Park Hill.
North Kansas City led 29-25 at halftime but immediately scored the first four out of the break to force the first timeout. The Hornets eventually pushed the advantage to 48-29 before Jones took a third timeout and finally saw some results.
The hustle of Haden Wallace (four points) and scoring of Nic Zeil (13 points) helped close the gap on multiple occasions late.
“It’s a good hard-working talented group, but they got a little frustrated there in the third quarter and made a couple of silly turnovers,” Jones said. “We were just trying to get them to calm down and realize they are still in the game, and we did battle back. The kids played extremely hard and didn’t quit.”
Park Hill went to a press defense, and a 9-0 run made it 48-38 going into the fourth quarter.
North Kansas City’s lead briefly went to single digits, but a runout layup for Erik Slack resulted in a three-point play to make it 54-42 with 4:13 left. Zeil responded with a three-point play to make it 57-50 with 2:17 to go, but he fouled out along with senior forward Cecil Lee — the only player in uniform with significant experience from last year.
Lee totaled six points but played limited minutes due to foul trouble.
Jones used nine players total, and the meshed together starting unit of Lee, Zeil, DaShaun Powell, Ryan Graves and Mike Engelbert helped lead a positive start. Engelbert (11 points) and Powell hit early 3s to give the Trojans a lead, but North Kansas City hit a pair of 3s late in the first quarter to take a 17-12 lead.
Graves hit one of his two 3s in the second quarter to spark a 9-0 run, and Engelbert scored nine of his 11 points in the first half. North Kansas City took a 29-25 lead into halftime and ended up with four players in double-figure scoring.
“First game of the year, you’re not sure how that lineup and rotation will look,” Jones said. “It absolutely caused us some problems when our bigs got in foul trouble. All the sudden we do have a couple guys out there that we didn’t think we would have, but they were ready. They are high school players. They are seniors and juniors that are big physical kids so we’ve got faith in them that they can step in and do the job.
“It just didn’t turn out that way tonight.”
Park Hill South 79, Blue Springs 65
With a 21-5 run to start the fourth quarter, the Panthers pulled away for a win Saturday, Dec. 2 in the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic in Liberty, Mo.
Park Hill South junior guard Lamel Robinson, who finished with a game-high 23 points, scored 5 points in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, and Park Hill South wouldn’t trail again. CJ Lee, a senior forward, scored nine of his 11 points during the run to help put the Panthers up double digits.
Improving to 2-0, Park Hill South received double figures from senior guard Saadique Perkins, who also blocked four shots.
The game went back and forth from the start.
Blue Springs led by two after the first quarter, but Robinson rallied the Panthers to a 37-33 halftime lead. They closed on a 12-3 run.
Park Hill South didn’t trail again, although Blue Springs forged three different ties in the third quarter.
A 34-20 advantage in rebounding helped Park Hill South maintain the lead despite playing mostly with three athletic guards. Harold Ellis led the effort with eight points and six rebounds, while Lee and Perkins added five boards apiece.
Nine different players scored for Park Hill South.