BY JONI OSWALD
The crowd was larger, the competition was stiffer, and the stakes were higher, all of which made the heartbreak much greater. Last night, the Truman Patriots (15-13 overall ) fell to the Lee’s Summit West Titans (20-6 overall) in the sectionals round of the 2019 MHSAA Girls’ Basketball State Championship- Class 5 tournament at the Silverstein Eye Arena, with a final score of 53-46.
Having defeated West previously in a tense 41-39 struggle that had fans on the edge of their seats, the Patriots knew the game ahead of them would not only be emotional, but physical as well. The Titans set out to avenge this loss in the playoff season. “My mindset going into this game is to just play it like every other game. Obviously, it is more important, but this way I’m able to keep my nerves low,” said senior guard, Kaylie Simonds before the game.
Being in this top sixteenth position of the tournament is a foreign feeling to each girl on the team given the fact that it’s been 4 years since the girls team has played in this game and 14 years since they won it. “This game is important because our school has struggled with sports the past couple years,” said senior shooting guard, Rebecca Gilpin. “We want to return to our school the hope and confidence that I know they have in us. It’s amazing to be apart of something like this.”
An $8.50 admission fee and different atmosphere didn’t deprive the student section in number, for members of various grade levels quickly made themselves at home as they cheered on the girls. Hollers began erupting with each name and number of the starting lineup announced onto the court of battle. They position themselves for tip-off. The official tossed the ball in the air. The game began.
A back and forth first quarter bled into a tightly contested second as neither team could manage to generate any separation. Shooters on both teams established themselves as powerful entities by demanding respect through the swishing net. For Truman, senior guard, Stacy Briggs rose the crowd from their seats by nailing back-to-back-to-back three-pointers, elevating the Patriots a from a tied game to a 22-13 lead just before halftime.
“Stacy’s shooting streak gave the team a spark going into the second half. She’s always been able to hit those important three-pointers to bring us back into the game,” said senior post guard, Rosie Braley.
Returning from halftime, both teams appeared from their locker rooms with more determination than they had when they had gone in. A shift in the atmosphere was evident as players seized the basketballs off of the rack for mid-game warm-ups. Both physically and mentally the teams prepared for battle down the stretch.
The third quarter began with a Patriot’s possession Almost immediately, a much more vigorous pace captivated the rest of the game, and reached its peak when a scuffle for a jump-ball devolved into a shoving match between both teams mid-quarter. Words were exchanged and the referee simultaneously threw the technical sign while blowing his whistle against West. This allowed all Gilpin to put up a couple free throws for her team.
Despite this spike in intensity however, Truman struggled to put points on the board and fouls out of the scorebook, as opposed to West, who suppressed the Patriots’ shooting streak and out-scored them by 12 points. The lights on the scoreboard illuminated 29-26 by the end of the 3rd quarter, Titans leading.
The fourth quarter soon heated up to be a battle of the free-throws. Both teams sent shooters to the line due to a plethora of touchy fouls called by the referees. Drawing most of these calls for the Patriots, junior Deon Monroe took many visits to the line, racking up a few points.
“I felt I lot pressure taking on the free throw line so much. I missed a lot of them, and I definitely could have handled them a bit better,” said Monroe.
Energy was never quite able to be resurrected from the stagnant pace that lasted up until the final buzzer, indicating the end of the Truman girls’ basketball season. Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, the Lady Patriots resolutely made their way out of sight and into the locker room.
“We need to communicate on the court more as well as play together as a team,” said junior post guard, Jewel Hart, looking down as if trying to get a grasp on exactly what went wrong. “I really felt we didn’t do a great job of that tonight.”
Reserved talk of what could have been done to change the outcome of the game mixes in with the sorrowful snuffles and the comforting words from friends who’ve loitered outside the locker room to perform damage control upon their friends with uniforms. It is within these moments, it’s easy to cease notice on all the good that came of the 2018-2019 Truman girls’ basketball team.
“We had a tough schedule this year, we played nine games against high-ranked teams from both the Kansas and Missouri side. With that, we endured some losses. Doubt starts to creep in and players begin to question their ability,” said Steve Cassity, varsity head coach. “However, the girls didn’t let these low points break them, in fact, they grew much stronger from them, and it shows. Battling back to a strong position in conference and essentially winning the district tile were all results from this perseverance.”
Highlights from the game from:
Photo gallery (all photos by Vanessa Garcia):
Girls’ describes their experience (Nate Morton and Zane Acuna):