Park Hill girls lose key chance in Gold Division matchup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill’s run at a Suburban Conference Gold Division likely ended with a Monday, Feb. 6 loss, but a late charge showed another reason for optimism.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Park Hill senior guard Alex Berger, right, goes up for a shot against Lee’s Summit North on Monday, Feb. 6 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Park Hill senior guard Alex Berger, right, goes up for a shot against Lee’s Summit North on Monday, Feb. 6 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Lee’s Summit North, ranked No. 4 in the most recent Class 5 Missouri Basketball Coaches Association poll, remained unbeaten with a 57-47 win at Park Hill High School. The Broncos (19-0, 8-0 Gold Division) led by as many as 18 in the second half but saw Park Hill knife the double-digit advantage to seven multiple times late in a frenetic fourth quarter.

Park Hill, now a half game out of second place in the Gold Division, received late buckets from senior Morgen Smith (14 points) and Taiya Shelby (five points) but couldn’t come up with the series of plays needed to complete a monumental comeback.

“Our kids fight, and I knew they’d fight,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “It just took them getting punched in the face to fight. I think the magnitude of the game might have been a little shock to us at first, but I think this is great for us. We’re going to get better from it. They’re really good, and I’m proud of the way my kids finished the game.”

Park Hill held an early lead in the first quarter but couldn’t overcome a distinct size disadvantage.

A 3-pointer from Gigi Hopkins opened the scoring, and the Trojans were up 3-0 and then 5-2 after a tough layup from junior guard Alison Walls. Lee’s Summit North responded with an 11-0 run, and the Broncos were up 17-7 entering the second quarter.

Park Hill forced Lee’s Summit North, which received 33 points combined from 6-foot-2 forwards Aaliyah and Aiyana Johnson, into jump shots with a zone defense. However, the Broncos countered with second-chance opportunities and the occasional easy layup to build the lead.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Park Hill sophomore guard Tee Tee Bryant, left, tries to go past a Lee’s Summit North defender on Monday, Feb. 6 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Park Hill sophomore guard Tee Tee Bryant, left, tries to go past a Lee’s Summit North defender on Monday, Feb. 6 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Meanwhile, Park Hill fought against a stifling defense to find quality shots.

The Trojans mounted a surge going into halftime, and senior guard Alex Berger’s three-point play off of a driving layup and a foul made it 24-18 with 52.6 seconds left in the half. Tee Tee Bryant, a sophomore guard, grabbed a steal on Lee’s Summit North’s ensuing possession and raced the other way for an apparent layup. The Trojans’ speedster absorbed contact and made the shot, but the officials called a charging foul.

Walls then missed two free throws after another chance to draw closer with 1.8 seconds left in the half, and Lee’s Summit North’s Taiyana Stewart swatted away Hopkins’ desperation 3 at the buzzer off the second miss.

“You absolutely want to see (the whistle go the other way), but it didn’t,” Neeser said.

Turnovers plagued Park Hill in the third quarter, and Lee’s Summit North took advantage.

The Broncos opened the second half on a 9-2 run, and after twice going up 18, they were ahead 45-28 with 8 minutes to play. The Trojans tried to close the gap by ratcheting up the pressure in an attempt to spring a second upset, having beaten No. 2 Kirkwood earlier in the season.

Berger’s 3 from the right wing with 5:32 left pulled Park Hill within 45-35.

Shelby’s layup 2½ minutes later made it a nine-point game, and she grabbed a steal off the ensuing inbounds pass, crashing into the chairs at the end of the home bench. The possession resulted in a layup for Smith, making it 48-41.

Park Hill couldn’t come any closer and dropped to 14-6 overall, 5-3 in Gold Division play with Lee’s Summit North sweeping the season series. While the league title would require a lot of help, the Trojans have eyes on returning to the playoffs for the second time in three years, hoping to earn a potential postseason rematch with the Broncos.

“In the fourth quarter, we showed who we were, but it was too little too late,” Neeser said. “It’s disappointing losing any game. Yes, this hurt one of our goals, but our season’s not over.”

Park Hill 52, Raymore-Peculiar 41

A strong defensive first half propelled the Trojans to a Gold Division win Wednesday, Feb. 1 in Raymore, Mo.

Berger led Park Hill with 19 points, and Shelby added 14. The Trojans were up 23-11 at halftime and held the lead from there behind 14 of 17 shooting on free throws.

Park Hill South 47, Liberty North 42

A combined 26 points for Alecia Westbrook and Grace Cunningham helped the Panthers jump back into the Suburban Conference Red Division race.

Park Hill South improved to 4-2 in league play, completing the season sweep of Liberty North with a win Monday, Feb. 6 in Liberty, Mo. Westbrook had a game-high 15 in a tight battle from start to finish after the Panthers came into the game off back-to-back losses in last week’s North Kansas City Invitational.

With the win, Park Hill South (9-12) is just a game and a half back of Truman, still unbeaten in the Red Division.

NORTH KANSAS CITY INVITATIONAL

St. Pius X 57, Park Hill South 52

After an upset of the No. 4-ranked team in the state to start the tournament, the Panthers lost two straight and finished fourth.

St. Pius X held on to a big halftime lead Friday, Feb. 3 in the third-place game in North Kansas City, Mo. Dymeria Guillory (15 points), DeQuaria Guillory (12 points) and Dejaria Guillory (11 points) did most of the scoring for the Panthers, who saw a second half comeback fall short.

At halftime, Park Hill South trailed 32-18.

DeQuaria Guillory hit four 3-pointers, while Dymeria and Dejaria Guillory and sophomore center Alecia Westbrook (12 points) combined to shoot 12-for-13 on free throws for the Panthers, who were 14-for-17 overall. They dropped to 8-12 overall despite beating No. 1 seed Hickman in the opening round of the tournament.

Lincoln Prep 58, Park Hill South 44

The Panthers lost a rematch after a slow second half in a semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 1 in North Kansas City, Mo.

Westbrook scored a team-high 16 points, while De’Jaria Guillory added 13. The rest of the roster managed just 15 points combined for Park Hill South, which ended up with just 17 points after halftime.

Lincoln Prep, which lost a pool game to Park Hill South last month in the Oak Park Invitational, led 29-27 at halftime but pulled away this time after limiting the Panthers to six points in the fourth quarter.