COLUMBIA – After getting a dose of its own medicine, Lee’s Summit West had to make a quick recovery.
Less than 24 hours after falling to a quick and athletic Christian Brothers College team 81-68 March 20 in the semifinals of the Class 5 state basketball tournament, the Titans bounced back and beat Hazelwood Central 70-58 in the third-place game March 21 at Mizzou Arena.
The frustrating loss to eventual champion CBC put West in the consolation game for the second time in three years. It also meant that Titans coach Michael Schieber was going to have to find a way to fire up his team for a game that no one really wants to play.
“Before this game we talked about four things,” Schieber said. “In the last three years this program has never lost two games in a row, the guys who played before them, the guys that are going to play after them, and the guys who are on this team right now. I’m proud of these kids. I’m proud of what they gave.”
Still, it took a while before West could take control. Hazelwood Central, which fell to Columbia Hickman in the other semifinal, led 18-16 after the first quarter and 34-31 after a back-and-forth first half.
But after Hazelwood Central forced a ninth tie at 43-43 late in the third period, West went on a 12-2 run and took charge with a 55-45 lead in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, we were mad of course that we lost (to CBC),” said West junior guard Jared Dixon. “But like coach said, we had the chance to be one of the only two teams to end the season with a win. It was kind of hard to get up to play today but we got it done, and we knew we had to do it.”
West got it done with 16 points from Monte Harrison, 12 points and 11 rebounds from Thomas Ganaden and 11 points from Gary Davis to go along with Dixon’s 10. The Titans made 50 percent of their shots and held Hazelwood Central to 37-percent shooting.
West didn’t shoot as well against CBC, which went on to beat Hickman 86-77 in overtime in a thrilling final. Like the Titans, CBC likes to push the ball up the floor. And with a highly talented big man like 6-8 Jordan Bennett and a lightning quick guard in sophomore Jordan Barnes, the Cadets were just a little better at the Titans’ game.
Bennett, who will play next year at Texas, had 20 points and 10 rebounds while Barnes finished with 14 points and eight assists. All five Cadet starters scored in double figures, which made them that much harder to handle.
They’re a very, very good basketball team,” Schieber said. “You get a kid like that who can hit shots, and a guard that can get to the rim anytime he wants and shooters in the corners, that’s incredibly hard to guard.”
West never led after the opening minutes, but the Titans hung around despite struggling to make shots. But every time the Titans would mount a run, the Cadets seemed to have the answer.
“It was very frustrating,” Ganaden said. “They’re very quick and we struggled to get back on them. Whenever we would get a bucket they would get a bucket.”
West would have struggled more had Ryan Williams not heated up from three-point range. Williams hit six three-pointers on his way to a team-best 20 points. Harrison had 19 points and nine rebounds, Ganaden had 12 points and Dixon chipped in 11.
It wasn’t the way the Titans wanted to end their season. But after finishing 27-3 and reaching another Final Four, Schieber couldn’t be too disappointed.
“This team had one goal at the beginning of the season and we fell a little bit short of that,” Schieber said. “But that doesn’t’ dampen how proud I am of them – how hard they worked, how much they gave, and we told those guys that we’ll be coming back.”