As well as the Lee’s Summit West boys were playing, coach Michael Schieber could have just stayed out on the floor during halftime.
West advanced to tonight’s Class 5 sectionals in impressive fashion, riding a second-half surge to a 70-51 victory over Rockhurst in the Class 5 District 16 final March 7 at Ray-Pec. West, 24-3, will face Park Hill at 4:45 today (March 12) at the Independence Events Center.
Much like the West girls in the first game of the double-header, the Titans avenged a loss in last year’s district final. The Hawklets beat the Titans 60-42 at West on their way to the 2013 Class 5 state title.
And the Titans got their revenge without much goading from their coach.
“I walked into the locker room at halftime and they’re coaching themselves,” Schieber said. “They’re telling each other all the things that they heard over and over again. Those kids (took) ownership of the team. You can be a good team being a coach-driven team, but you can’t be great unless you’re player-driven.”
West turned a 35-32 halftime lead into a 46-34 advantage by the 4:21 mark of the third quarter when its defense quickly turned into offense in transition.
“We were telling each other to stop people’s runs,” said senior forward Monte Harrison. “That’s what we did. We came out there and we had to play defense. That’s what happened and we spread the lead out to 20.”
With 2:00 on the clock in the third, Thomas Ganaden pushed the lead to 53-36 with a layup in transition and any attempt at a Rockhurst comeback was quickly squashed.
Jarred Dixon opened the third with an and-one transition layup and Gary Davis sunk a floater the next possession.
Noah Spencer tried to stop the bleeding for the Hawklets with a layup that pulled Rockhurst within 40-34, but Harrison went on his own 6-0 highlight reel run, hitting a layup off a feed from Dale Brown, flying for a transition dunk and then throwing it down on two defenders for the 46-34 cushion.
“I thought our kids just kept punching them,” Schieber said. “We just kept going, kept going, kept going. We were able to contain them off the dribble and were able to rebound the basketball effectively enough and get out in transition.
“Those are the things we try to focus on daily in practice. When you get to this point of the season, you want to see the things you’re focusing on daily in practice carry over to games, and these kids did that tonight.”
Harrison led the charge for West with 18 points, 10 of which came on dunks. But it wasn’t just about Harrison as all five starters scored in double figures and combined for 69 of the team’s 70 points.
“We’re a well-balanced team,” Harrison said. “Anybody can score 20 points a night. It just so happened that everybody had even numbers.”
Dixon and Davis each scored 14 points, Brown finished with 13 and Ganaden added 10.
The two teams battled back and forth in the first half which saw nine ties and eight lead changes. Neither team went up by more than four.
And neither team wanted to waste any time getting shots up.
Ganaden converted a traditional three-point play with 12 seconds left in the first quarter and Darius Session added a free throw to give the Titans a 24-20 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Hawklets opened the second with five straight points to take over the lead, but then the lead switched hands five times before Ganaden again made a free throw following a bucket to make it 31-30. The Titans never relinquished the lead again as Ganaden added another layup and the two teams traded baskets with Dixon getting to the paint eight seconds before the half expired.