KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The annual Battle for the Hill rivalry game lived up to the billing in front of a capacity crowd Wednesday, Dec. 20 at Park Hill High School.
Platte County Sheriff’s Office deputies were forced to turn away late-arrivals to the game after the gymnasium reached its limits for the nightcap. Park Hill South more than once took a big lead but ended up needing to hold off Ronnie Bell and Park Hill late in a 72-65 win.
Park Hill South won for the second time in five meetings over the past three seasons in what has been a back-and-forth series for years.
“It’s just the rivalry between us. You knew it was going to be close,” Park Hill South coach Dan Parra said. “I think last year they were up by 20 at our place and we fought back and made a game of it. It’s a rivalry game. Both teams have grown up together and look forward to playing each other. I thought the atmosphere was awesome. It’s two really good teams and a great night of basketball.”
Both teams had long periods of success but ultimately the visitors kept control longer.Park Hill South (6-2) enjoyed double-digit breathing room most of the game.
A long-range 3-pointer from Panthers senior guard Saadique Perkins lifted them to a 19-9 lead at the first quarter buzzer. The advantage shrank to 27-23 at halftime, but junior guard Lamel Robinson hit 3s on back to back possessions to begin the third quarter to once again make it a double-digit margin.
Robinson didn’t lead Park Hill South in scoring for the first time this season but posted 16 points — one of three in double figures for the Panthers.
“Those (3s) were big,” Parra said. “They gave us a little breathing room. Lamel hits, it opens up more drives where he can pass the ball. He didn’t play great tonight, but he played good enough.”
The lead stayed in double figures until Park Hill pulled the game within five twice in the fourth quarter.
Perkins made another big play to once again give the Panthers life after their seemingly safe 14-point lead dwindled. His emphatic two-handed dunk in transition made the lead seven and provided momentum.
Park Hill South junior guard Desi Williams added a 3-point play in transition to make the lead eight, and he finished with a game-high 23 points — with 10 in the pivotal fourth quarter. Park Hill lost a third straight in a tough stretch of scheduling that also included a run to the Liberty North Invitational title.
“It was close, but South responded,” Park Hill coach Chad Jones said. “Our guys are grinders. We’re playing with a lot of pride and a lot of energy,”
Park Hill (3-4) mostly stayed close thanks to star senior guard Ronnie Bell, who played just his second game of the season after missing the start due to a minor injury. Park Hill South keyed on the former Missouri State basketball signee to end a whirlwind week which culminated in Bell signing to play football at the University of Michigan ahead of the rivalry basketball game.
Bell managed just four points in the first three quarters, but he scored 13 in the final 8 minutes to finish with 17.
“We wanted to make it really hard for him,” Parra said. “We wanted to make him a jump shooter. Thank god the clock ran out because he was starting to get hot at the end. He’s so good when he drives. He’s so athletic. We didn’t want him to live in the paint where he can drive and drive and drive.”
Park Hill senior Cecil Lee scored a team-high 21 points including some big dunks early to help give the Trojans an early lead. Late in the game, Lee reemerged with a hustle block on an attempted Perkins dunk to force a jump ball and return possession to the Trojans with a chance to make it a one-score game.
However, Park Hill couldn’t take advantage.
“Cecil played well tonight,” Jones said. “He was active offensively and defensively. He has played well for us all year, and we need him to step up like he did. He has done some great things for us, but that’s what you expect out of your senior leaders.”
Park Hill also had three double-digit scorers with junior guard Ryan Graves adding 10 and senior Mike Engelbert finishing with nine. Perkins had 12 points to round out Park Hill South’s top trio, and CJ Lee contributed nine more.
Both teams continue play this weekend in the William Jewell Holiday Classic. Park Hill South will be the No. 3 seed in the Patterson Division, while Park Hill is the No. 2 seed in the Nelson Division.
Fort Osage 81, Platte County 71
Deiondre Ragsdale and Nathen Mair combined for 45 points in a loss for the Pirates on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Platte County (5-4) goes into the holiday break with a matchup against powerhouse Grandview looming in a Suburban Conference Blue Division opener on Jan. 3. The Pirates opened the year with a run to the Savannah Invitational title — their first tournament championship in a nearly decade — but lost four of their next six.
During the skid, senior Kobe Cummings left the team to pursue recruiting for football and baseball. Ragsdale scored 23 against Fort Osage and continues to lead Platte County in scoring, while Mair continues to develop in his first year as a starter, totaling a career-high 21 vs. the Indians.