By Kary Booher
Springfield, MO – Sometimes, taking a couple on the chin, at least from a pair basketball big boys, isn’t such a bad thing.
But to Parkview’s J.T. Brown and Lencorya Grady, Friday night was the time for the Vikings basketball team to put its collective foot down.
Which they did. Brown scored a game-high 20 points and Grady added 13 as Parkview stormed back from an ominous beginning and threw down a 58-44 Ozark Conference win against the Hillcrest Hornets at Hillcrest High School.
Put it this way; Parkview fell into a 7-0 hole right off the bat and then looked like a completely different team the rest the way as the Vikings beat Hillcrest’s full-court press defense that has come to define the Hornets since mid-December.
“This was a must-win,” was the way Grady put it. “We needed to bounce back.”
Said Brown, “We needed to play tougher and play together.”
The two’s words came a week after Parkview suffered blowout losses on back-to-back nights to state-ranked Kickapoo and Christian Brothers College High School before winning Tuesday at Joplin.
What was noticeable Friday night was the way Parkview, now 13-6 overall and 4-1 in the OC, muzzled the Hornets.
For weeks, Hillcrest has relied on its array of athletes and full-court press to wear out opponents, and the strategy led to a 10-game win streak and then another three-game win streak after the first one was broken by a loss to Glendale.
In essence, Parkview broke the press and either scored with Hillcrest out of position, or simply worked the ball around its half-court set and found nice open jumpers. After falling behind, the Vikings outscored Hillcrest 25-12 to lead 25-19 at halftime, and then saw Brady Hill and Grady hit 3-pointers on their first two possessions of the second half.
It was 31-21 at that point, and the advantage eventually ballooned to 15 points in the fourth quarter – and never got below nine points.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Parkview coach Landon Cornish said. “We learned (last week) what kind of fight it’s going to take to win some big game.”
Cornish was particularly pleased with the way the Vikings handled the pressure.
“We were under control with it. We didn’t try to force anything. We had good patience,” Cornish said. “That comes from the leadership of our guards. J.T. and Lencorya and Dontae (Taylor) and Brady (Hill) can all those guys can handle the ball. And when we got it in the half-court, we slowed down and were able to get a basket.”
Tyem Freeman scored 17 points, including 12 after halftime, and Shahn Clark came off the bench to score 14 for Hillcrest. The Hornets some momentum early in the fourth as Freeman took charge, pulling Hillcrest within 47-38.
But in a sign it was Parkview’s night, Njenga Chatman hit a 3-pointer at the other end.
“We eased off a bit (early),” Freeman said, “and they came back to play a good game.”
Meanwhile, Hillcrest coach Joel Brown saw the loss two ways: Parkview was solid in the half-court, and his own strategy this past week – when he backed off to “save their legs” – may not have created the right atmosphere.
“We were flat it seemed all night. We couldn’t get those spurts or energy we normally produce, especially defensively,” Brown said. “In preparation, it’s a long season, so we’re trying to save their legs. And I may have saved them too much. I didn’t get them ready mentally or physically just to be ready to do the things that made us successful.”
Call it a learning experience for Hillcrest, especially defensively.
“When we’re not guarding like we need to, it just doesn’t happen,” Brown said. “In the half-court, we need to guard harder. I think that’s the part that really let us down tonight.”
Parkview 58, Hillcrest 44
Parkview 9 16 18 15 – 58
Hillcrest 13 6 12 13 — 44
Parkview – J.T. Brown 20, Lencorya Grady 13, Njenga Chatman 9, Brady Hill 8, Dontae Taylor 4, Gage Clark 4.
Hillcrest – Tyem Freeman 17, Shahn Clark 14, Josh Powell 4, Tim Washington 4, Sam Terry 2, Cole Pryor 2, Brenden Weaver 1.
JV – Parkview 66, Hillcrest 54