KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill still needs to answer plenty of questions, but the debut for a revamped roster yielded an encouraging result.
In the Winnetonka Invitational’s Cardinal bracket first round, Park Hill smothered Grandview on the way to a 68-43 win Monday, Nov. 27 at Winnetonka High School. The Trojans returned only two players who helped them to a record-setting run to the Class 5 quarterfinals a year ago and used the defense to create offense.
Park Hill led 27-6 after the first quarter with eight turnovers helping create easy layup opportunities.
“We’ve been talking about when we’re on defense we need to talk a lot,” said Park Hill senior Taiya Shelby, who scored 15 of her game-high 18 points in the opening quarter. “We have to say switch on screens. Just talking to each other helps us as a team. I think we’ve gotten into the swing of things and figured out each other’s roles. Now, we have to put it all together.”
Shelby was the only senior to receive playing time with an early injury sidelining Addison Devers.
With so much inexperience, Shelby’s well-rounded game will be a big key for Park Hill, which hopes to facilitate a quick rebuild after a recent run of success.
“Taiya works hard. She put herself in a position to be a good player by just working at it,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “She’ll continue to be our leader, and she’ll continue to set a good example. We’ll lean on her all year.”
Despite the fast start, some youth showed for Park Hill in the second quarter.
Grandview’s zone defense created multiple turnovers, but a timeout helped stem the struggles. The Trojans went into halftime up 39-15 and weren’t challenged in the second half.
Neeser expects the occasional growing pains, and the task stiffens in a scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 30 semifinal with Smithville, which advanced with a 47-39 win over Fort Osage in the first round.
“The defense is going to be a work in progress all year long,” Neeser said. “We have a lot of new faces learning how we want to play. At times we looked really good, and at times, it was bad. God, it was bad. But they were able to do the things we asked them to and that’s all that matters. We just have to learn to keep that consistency.”
Park Hill freshman Jayden Dorrell powered the Trojans in the second half, scoring 12 of her 16 in the final two quarters. The lead hit 32 after halftime with Neeser able to use a lot of his bench and get players valuable minutes early in the season.
In all, eight different players scored for Park Hill with junior TeeTee Bryant, the other returning starter, adding 11. Avery Mertz just missed double-figures with nine, while Teresa Thomas (seven), Hannah Graves (four), Olivia Noble (two) and Aleece Noble (two) rounded out the scoresheet.
“It’s always good to learn from winning,” Neeser said. “I think the girls can see what we need to get better at when we go back and watch film. We have to keep focusing on that. I’m just happy for the kids. They worked hard and they earned this victory.”
The championship game and third-place games are set for Friday.
Platte County 49, Liberty North 44
The Pirates hit free throws down the stretch to open the season with a win Tuesday, Nov. 21 in Liberty, Mo.
Laden with experience, Platte County held on with a steady showing never leading after any quarter by more than five points. Rockey Chambers, a senior, made her return to the starting lineup and scored a team-high 18 points in her first action since leaving the team as a junior for personal reasons.
Lauren Walker, another senior, added 11 points for Platte County.
Off to the 1-0 start, Platte County was scheduled to open play in the Winnetonka Invitational’s Gold bracket at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28 against Pembroke Hill. The semifinals were set for Thursday, Nov. 30 with a matchup against 2017 Class 5 state runner-up Lee’s Summit a possibility.
The result of Platte County’s first round game was not available at deadline.
Park Hill South 46, William Chrisman 43
In a matchup of up-tempo defenses, the Panthers came away with the win Tuesday, Nov. 21 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.
Park Hill South forced 30 turnovers in its season opener but also committed 18. William Chrisman held a 30-23 lead at halftime but couldn’t hold the advantage thanks to a balanced scoring effort from the Panthers.
DeQuaria Guillory led Park Hill South with 12 points — seven in the second half — while junior forward Alecia Westbrook and senior guard Raquel Reid added nine apiece. The Panthers hit just two 3s, both in the second quarter, and shot just 13 free throws despite the fast pace of play.
William Chrisman managed just a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and then just one field goal in the fourth quarter.