KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With Tee Tee Bryant on the bench with an injury, Park Hill turned to some role players for key contributions in a critical Suburban Conference Gold Division game.
Taiya Shelby scored nine points, while Jenna Winebrenner, a senior reserve, added six off the bench in a 59-57 win for the Trojans against Lee’s Summit on Thursday, Jan. 26 at Park Hill High School. Alison Walls, a junior, started in Bryant’s place and scored just one point but provided a steady hand with the ball.
Park Hill (12-5) improved to 3-2 in league play and sat just a half game out of second place in the Gold Division standings entering Monday’s game against Lee’s Summit West.
“We’re obviously a much better team with (Bryant) on the floor and so another reason why I’m so proud of my kids is because the next kid stepped up,” Park Hill coach Aaron Neeser said. “Ali Walls, Jenna Winebrenner, Taiya Shelby, all these kids did a fabulous job of stepping up and making plays.”
Park Hill only briefly trailed early but a 3-pointer from senior guard Alex Berger and a bucket from senior guard Gigi Hopkins on an assist from Berger assured the Trojans wouldn’t trail again. Hopkins drew a foul on her basket and converted a three-point play to give Park Hill an 8-6 lead.
At halftime, Park Hill led 21-15.
Lee’s Summit fought back in a high-scoring third quarter, tying the score 35-35 with a 3-pointer. Berger, who finished with 17 points, answered with a 3-pointer on the other end, and Park Hill held on for the final 9 minutes.
“They were overplaying us so hard, putting so much ball pressure on us, but we just told the girls put your head down and go,” Neeser said. “Once we were able to do that because they were pressuring the wings so much, they were able to get some easy opportunities at the basket.”
Park Hill senior forward Morgen Smith struggled to score, finishing with just three points, but she found other ways to contribute. She set up Shelby for a key bucket in the third, and Shelby grabbed a missed shot from Smith in the fourth quarter and scored a putback for a key two points.
The putback gave the Trojans a 50-44 lead, and Smith’s long pass to senior Leah Reed, who scored six points off the bench, increased the Tigers’ deficit to 57-50 with 30 seconds left.
Lee’s Summit made the score close late with a last-second 3-pointer cutting into the final score. Park Hill entered off of a third-place finish in the Basehor-Linwood Invitational when the Trojans gave up a big halftime lead in a semifinal loss to Holton (Kan.).
“We just talked a lot at halftime how last week in our tournament we were up at the half, and we kind of let it go in the second half and how we have to play all four quarters,” Smith said. “This was a big game because it put us in position to get second in the conference so everybody on the team knew it was important and we picked up the slack with Tee Tee not being able to play and everybody did their role.”
Park Hill 49, Lee’s Summit West 29
The Trojans moved into a tie for second in the Gold Division with a decisive win Monday, Jan. 30 in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Winners in eight of the last nine games, Park Hill received 14 points from Berger, 13 from Smith and 11 from Hopkins. The Trojans scored big in the first and third quarters and held the Titans to 11 points or fewer in all four quarters — just two in the second.
Park Hill is now 4-2 in Gold Division play, tied with Blue Springs South for second behind Lee’s Summit North (5-0).
“We have stressed conference play and how hard every game is going to be and about how we just need to be on our A game just to have a chance,” Neeser said. “They’re seniors, and they’re making plays, and they’re doing what we ask them to do, and they’re finishing and I’m just happy for them. They’re leading us and that’s what we need.”