By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — The Bass Pro Tournament of Champions has cemented itself as one of the premier high school basketball tournaments in the country; however, victories have been few and far between for area participants.
Since Nixa and Hillcrest both won games in 2013, only one other area team (Ozark in 2018) has posted a victory in the TOC.
Time to make room for one more, as Springfield Greenwood — a first-time participant — posted a 61-57 comeback victory over Greensboro (N.C.) Day School in Friday night’s consolation semifinals.
Five-star prospect Aminu Mohammed led the way for the Blue Jays with 31 points and 13 rebounds.
Greenwood trailed by as many as 10 points midway through the third period, largely due to Greensboro Day’s interior attack.
Bryce Harris poured in 24 points off the bench and in the paint to lead the Bengals.
Greensboro Day assistant coach Robert Johnson praised the 6-foot-5 junior’s performance.
“Bryce Harris is a really good player for us,” said Greensboro Day assistant coach Robert Johnson. “Unfortunately, he had gotten hurt three weeks ago, and so he hadn’t played or practice until we got to Springfield. He was a little rusty in yesterday’s game, so we wanted to get him in early and establish him.”
After scoring 14 points in the opening half on 7-of-9 attempts, Harris cooled a bit in the second thanks, in part, to Greenwood’s defensive adjustments.
“We were leaving the high post wide open,” Taylor said of Harris’s success. “The way [Greensboro] had their offense structured, we could turn our 1-2-2 into more of a 1-3-1, and we’re able to at least get a hand in his face more often.”
The shift helped slow down Greensboro Day’s attack enough to spark a Blue Jay rally.
A Blue Jay rally where the area’s best player, once again, took over with late-game heroics.
After a 3-11 start from the field, Mohammed erupted for an 8-13 performance in the second half.
“We were so cold in that second quarter when we got behind and we just couldn’t make anything and, to be honest, we weren’t executing very well,” Taylor said of Greenwood’s slow start. “But Aminu is such a tenacious rebounder that he wasn’t letting them kill us on the boards quite as bad … and then, he finally got on track and start hitting the shots. I don’t know what he ended up with, but It’s a pretty good night in the Tournament of Champions.”
While Mohammed provided a consistent presence, Greenwood’s supporting delivered a host of crucial, fourth-quarter plays.
Kaden Stuckey, son of former Missouri State standout Kelby Stuckey, proved to be more than comfortable on the Bears’ home floor with the game on the line.
The 6-foot-4 freshman added 8 points for the Blue Jays, and his back-to-back layups late in the game helped Greenwood capture the lead for good.
“[Stuckey] played very strong tonight,” Taylor said. “He was aggressive and physical, and he looked for a shot. I think last night’s game — maybe all of us were a little nervous, and I think tonight they had little more confidence.”
Stuckey helped Greenwood recapture its first lead since the second quarter, then Tommy Pinegar stepped up to close out the victory.
The sophomore scored 9 of his 15 points in the final period — including a pair of 3-pointers and three-straight free throws.
Pinegar talked about converting the crucial free throws, which gave Greenwood a two-possession lead with only eight seconds to play.
“I’ve been practicing free throws, and it was just the time to make those,” Pinegar said.
The 6-foot-1 guard went 4-for-7 from beyond the arc, including a deep 3-pointer only five seconds into the game.
“It was a good night,” Pinegar said. “I wanted to make one shot and start getting my rhythm going.”
“Tommy has ice in his veins,” added teammate Grant Harper.
Both teams are back in action for Saturday’s final round of tournament games. Greenwood (13-2) faces Christ the King (N.Y.) in the fifth-place matchup, while Greensboro Day (21-4) takes on Kickapoo in the seventh-place game.
Greenwood – 61, Greensboro Day – 57
Greensboro Day 10 20 18 09 — 57
Greenwood 14 10 16 21 — 61
Greensboro Day scoring: Bryce Harris – 24, Jaydon Young – 11, Brock Williams – 9, Christian Bailey – 6, Cam Hayes – 4, Whit Trevey – 3
Greenwood scoring: Aminu Mohammed – 31, Tommy Pinegar – 15, Kaden Stuckey – 8, Nicolas Burri – 7