KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As one player cooled off, another picked up the slack time and time again.
All five Park Hill starters finished with at least seven points in a 61-49 win over Staley in a Class 5 District 16 semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Park Hill High School. The Trojans were consistent and balanced, only trailing for a brief period in the first quarter on the way to their 20th win of the season.
Park Hill sophomore forward Roman Wilson dominated early before senior guard Dru Smith closed the first quarter with a pair of critical 3-pointers. Chester Graves, the Trojans’ bruising senior forward, bookended halftime with a pair of critical baskets, and junior leading scorer Ronnie Bell made all of the biggest shots in the second half.
“That’s really been us all year,” Park Hill coach Chad Jones said. “It’s been a team effort all year. We don’t have one guy who goes for 25 every night, and that’s really hard to guard as an opposing coach. Our guys played with a lot of effort tonight.”
The top-seeded hosts, Park Hill (20-5) advanced to the district title game against second-seeded Oak Park at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 3 back at Park Hill High School. The Trojans won the only meeting between the two this season back in December on a buzzer-beating layup for Smith.
Park Hill will play in a district title game for the third time in four years, seeking a first playoff appearance since 2014 when the current set of seniors were still freshmen.
“This one is especially special because this is my last year. I’m a senior,” said Smith, who finished with 16 points. “Last year, I didn’t even make it to the district championship, and I just really want to get this one and move on to sectionals.”
To reach the title game, Park Hill needed to avenge last year’s district semifinal loss when the Trojans were also the top seed.
Wilson, a 6-foot-10 first-year starter, scored nine of the first 12 for Park Hill, helping the Trojans overcome an early 6-0 run that forced Jones into a timeout after just 1 minutes, 37 seconds. Wilson’s 3 from the top of the key put Staley behind 8-6, and the Falcons were never tied or ahead the rest of the way.
Park Hill survived early foul trouble for junior point guard Willy Majok (seven points) and reserve forward Cecil Lee.
Smith moved over to run the point for much of the first quarter, while reserves Haden Wallace and Tyvione Stewart saw increased and unexpected early minutes. A third-year starter, Smith scored the final eight of the first quarter, converting a Bell steal into an easy layup and then hitting his first 3-pointer after a Staley bucket.
Up 17-15 late in the first quarter, Smith milked the final 45 seconds off the clock before burying a 3 just before the buzzer.
“The bench was useful in that first half,” Jones said. “Guys that usually don’t find themselves in the game early found themselves called to duty, and they had to help us out. They’re all good players. That’s no problem for us.”
Park Hill continued to hold a steady lead throughout the first half, and a steal and easy layup for Smith pushed the advantage to 30-21. Graves grabbed an air-balled 3 from Stewart and converted a putback at the halftime buzzer to send the Trojans into the break up 32-23.
Graves’ inside hoop on Park Hill’s first possession of the third quarter increased the lead to double digits for the first time and gave him the last of his eight points.
Shortly after, Bell went down and made a loud impact with the floor after a hard foul. The high-flying junior guard stayed in the game but missed both free throws, before shaking off any apparent signs of an injury to score seven of his 16 points in the latter part of the third quarter.
“He went down hard. The official took a look at him and decided he’s all right,” Jones said. “He missed those two free throws, and I was really worried. But then he came back and got hot from the outside and spread our scoring out.”
Bell’s second 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter — a contested look from the left corner — made it 45-32 with 7 minutes to play.
Staley hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep from getting blown out, but Park Hill’s advantage hit 19 points twice. Wilson, who went scoreless in the second quarter, finished with 15 points and he added an emphatic and easy one-handed dunk late to provide the final punctuation on the Trojans’ championship game return.
Wilson dunked after he misfired an alley-oop dunk off of a lob.
“It felt pretty good,” said Wilson, who added nine rebounds and six blocks. “But I missed the oop, and that was a bummer.”
Park Hill remains unsatisfied, even after losing just twice — both to Suburban Conference Gold Division champion Lee’s Summit West — since Jan. 21. The Trojans expect a rowdy atmosphere on their home floor Friday night, looking to break back through to the playoffs for the first time since advancing out of districts as an underdog .500 team in 2014.
“It’ll be a hostile environment,” Smith said. “We don’t have any pressure. We just want to stay poised because this is our home floor and just play our game.”
Park Hill 67, Raymore-Peculiar 59
The Trojans didn’t lead until the fourth quarter of their regular season finale Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.
Smith led the comeback, scoring 18 points, while eight other players contributed. Bell added 15 for Park Hill, which entered still holding on to slim chances of sharing the Gold Division title.
The Trojans ended up finishing 9-3 in league games, placing them in a tie for second with Blue Springs behind champion Lee’s Summit West.
Park Hill South 68, Raytown 59
The Panthers assured themselves of a piece of second place in the Suburban Conference Red Division standings, beating the champions Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.
Earning a split of the season series with Raytown, Park Hill South pulled away with a big fourth quarter. Lamel Robinson, a sophomore guard, hit three 3-pointers and totaled 26 points, while junior Saadique Perkins added 16 in the regular season finale for the Panthers, who finished 7-3 in conference games.
Perkins and senior forward Conner Lee both had highlight reel dunks to help Park Hill South avenge a two-point loss from earlier in the month. The Panthers were off until Thursday, March 2 when they host a Class 5 District 14 semifinal against third-seeded North Kansas City in Riverside, Mo.