Lee’s Summit West endured just one bump on its way to the Class 5 state tournament Saturday night.
A minor bump, as it turned out. But it looked pretty major at the time.
West is going to state boys basketball tournament for the first time since 2014 after a nearly flawless 66-50 victory over Liberty in a state quarterfinal game at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence. The Titans (25-2) will face defending champion Chaminade of St. Louis in the semifinals Friday night at Mizzou Arena.
And they will head to Columbia relieved that forward Christian Bishop is no worse for the wear after suffering a bloody cut from an elbow to the head early in the third quarter. Bishop was battling for a defensive rebound when he took the blow, and he remained sprawled under the basket as the Titans sprinted down court for a bucket and a 45-27 lead.
“I went up for a rebound and when I came down, somebody just came down and elbowed me on the top of my head,” Bishop said. “I didn’t think I was bleeding, but when I took my hand off my head, it was gushing.”
It took medical officials several minutes to stop the bleeding and escort Bishop off the floor. He returned to the West bench by the end of the quarter, and a large cheer went up from the Titans’ fans when he re-entered the game wearing a sweatband holding a big bandage on his forehead.
“I didn’t think it was that scary,” Bishop said. “I felt fine. I didn’t think I had a concussion or anything, so I was ready to get out there and start playing again.”
West did wobble a little bit while Bishop was out, letting Liberty creep back within 10 points of the Titans. West coach Michael Schieber expected the Titans to be a little rattled, but he knew they would be fine when Bishop returned.
Anytime you have a teammate who gets injured … it shakes you up a little bit,” Schieber said. “(There was) a lot of blood down there. But I thought the kids did a really, really good job. It obviously picked us up when he came back out, too.”
Bishop’s gash didn’t need stitches, and it didn’t keep the 6-foot-7 junior from scoring a team-high 19 points as the Titans dominated Liberty under the basket. Elijah Childs, a 6-8 senior forward, finished with 18 points and the Titans balanced the inside game with 15 points from guard C.J. May and nine from Mario Goodrich.
“I thought our post presence tonight was huge,” Schieber said. “We were able to build a lead through our post presence, and then our guards hit shots to keep them honest so they couldn’t double off of them. There just so many things we really did well tonight.”
And West started doing them right away. Childs muscled inside for eight points and Bishop had six as the Titans rolled out to a 21-10 lead in the first quarter.
“We knew we’d have an advantage on the post so we tried to get there as much as possible,” Childs said. “Everything was clicking tonight.”
Liberty (20-8) never led, but the Blue Jays did stay within striking distance with the outside shooting of guard Jalen Lewis, who led all scorers with 25 points. Lewis made back-to-back three-pointers that cut West’s lead to 32-37 late in the second quarter, but the Titans closed out the quarter by making seven of eight free throws and led 39-27 at the half.
Liberty never got within single digits again, and the Blue Jays only run came while Bishop was being attended to. But when he returned midway through the third quarter, the Titans could breathe a sigh of relief and get back to work to securing their trip to Columbia.
“We got rattled because he’s a big part of our offense and defense,” Childs said. “We lost him for a little bit but I’m glad he came back.”