Finding its way

Special to the JournalJanuary 17, 2014 

It’s taken a little bit of time but Mike Hilbert is hopeful his Lee’s Summit North basketball team is starting to find its way, and that was never more evident than during a 70-57 home win over Rockhurst.

The Broncos put together their most complete game of the season in the Jan. 15 contest, starting strong, maintaining a lead and answering each time the Hawklets got within striking distance.

“We played four quarters tonight,” Hilbert said. “We were more effective and efficient for most of the 32 minutes.”

That effectiveness started from the opening tip, as the Broncos raced out to a 14-5 lead and extended it to 19-8 by quarter’s end.

The Broncos made some adjustments over the Christmas break on both offense and defense, with Hilbert implementing a little more of an open offense that allows his team to use its ability to get to the basket.

That was on display against Rockhurst, as North was able to get in the paint and finish or find a teammate for an open shot.

“It’s more of our game,” said senior Jalen Ford, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “Coach has done a great job of running plays where we can spread things out and get some isolation.”

A rough month of December led Hilbert to make some offensive “tweaks” as he called them.

In the second half, all but three of North’s field goals were in the lane.

“It was out of necessity,” Hilbert said. “We spread the floor more initially in our offense. I want them to take advantage of their skill and ability. They’re comfortable with that, too. That’s how they want to play. It seems to fit these guys. In December we were stagnant and we weren’t scoring.”

That attacking style was able to keep the Hawklets at bay, despite a few rocky moments when Rockhurst made runs.

The Hawklets got as close as six points on three different occasions in the second quarter but a 5-0 run to end the quarter made it 32-21 at the half.

The deficit once again was cut to six in the third quarter before North scored six straight to open the lead back up to 12, capped by a Caleb Berry three-pointer.

A few moments later, the lead was back down to seven, 46-39, when the Broncos put the game away with an 8-0 run. Berry and Anthony Lupardus scored four points apiece to make it a 54-39 advantage.

With several players who were inexperienced at the varsity level starting the season, the more games the Broncos play, the more their chemistry is starting to show.

“It’s the process of building,” Ford said. “Earlier in the year we lost leads and lost games. These guys are feeling more comfortable at the varsity level.”

“Everybody plays harder and has accepted their roles,” Lupardus said. “… At the beginning of the season we were taking the first shot. We’ve learned we need to make the extra pass and know who our shooters are.”

Added Ford, “The pieces had to fall together. We trust each other more. Everybody is on the same page.”

That goes for the defense as well, as they extended some full-court pressure, which got Rockhurst out of its comfort zone at times. It gives the Broncos another chance to use their quickness to their advantage.

It’s all added up to a positive start to 2014, with two wins in three games to move North to 4-6. And before the conference season begins, they look to build off of the win with a tilt tonight (Jan. 17) against Hogan Prep and then next week in the always-stacked Culver’s Tournament.

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