All season long, even during the most difficult moments, Lee’s Summit West has always had that air of confidence on the basketball court.
That confidence has taken them all the way back to the state tournament.
Lee’s Summit West won its second spot in the Class 5 Final Four in three years March 15 when it beat Lee’s Summit 74-55 in a quarterfinal matchup at the Independence Events Center. The Titans, 26-3, next face Christian Brothers College High of St. Louis at 6:50 p.m. March 20 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
Here’s how confident West was against the cross-town Tigers: Even after Lee’s Summit rushed out to an early lead and maintained it through the first two quarters, the Titans never doubted they would eventually take control.
And that’s just what they did – with an 11-2 outburst midway through the third quarter.
“We just needed one run,” West senior Monte Harrison said. “We get one run with three stops and three scores and the game was over.”
Until then it was pretty much up for grabs. Lee’s Summit, which was vying for its first Final Four appearance since 1990, rode the hot shooting hands of Blake Spellman and Drew Lock to a 19-14 lead in the first quarter. Spellman scored nine of his 14 points in the period and Lock had 10 of his 21 and they only missed two shots between them.
Lee’s Summit led 32-30 at the half after Lock hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer. But after four ties and as many lead changes, the game took a sudden turn in the third when the Titans started making stops and hitting threes.
Ryan Williams sandwiched three-pointers around a Lock basket and put West up for good at 44-42 with 4:05 left in the period. The Titans then got another three from Richaud Dunn and pushed the ball up the floor again for a Harrison basket.
Suddenly, West had a 49-42 lead. As the Titans started making more stops and getting more transition baskets, that advantage swelled to 55-44 by the end of the period and by as many as 20 by the end of the game.
“They hit those three consecutive threes, and our kids panicked a bit,” Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little said. “I thought we executed our game plan pretty well early, but that kind of kicked us out of it a little bit.”
The turnaround, as West coach Michael Schieber often points out, wasn’t the product of any halftime chalk talk or histrionics. This team motivates itself.
“At halftime it was just about talking about the things we talked about before the game,” Schieber said. “It was just refocusing about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to accomplish it.”
That becomes easier with a player like Harrison. He led the Titans with 19 points, six of them off high-flying dunks. He was one of four Titans in double figures along with Gary Davis (17 points), Williams (15) and Jared Dixon (10).
And all of them shared the same feeling after the first half.
“The only thing we said was, We got this,’” Harrison said. “We played a very poor first half, but then we had seniors step up and play their roles and the younger guys contributed, too.”
West, which placed third in the 2012 state tournament, can now look forward to Christian Brothers, which beat Jackson 75-66 in the quarterfinals. Jordan Barnett, a 6-foot-7 senior who has signed with Texas, is the 23-7 Cadets’ leading scorer at nearly 20 points per game.
Lee’s Summit will look forward to next season after ending this one with a 20-8 record and its first district title since 2000. Little will have several key players back next season, most notably Lock and Spellman.
“We had a great year,” Little said. “Obviously disappointed in the way it ends, but very pleased with the progress we made this first year. Now we need to get back to work and stay hungry for the next.”