By Stephen Buus (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Great ball movement, pressure defense, and a 30-point explosion from 5-foot-10 junior guard Lawson Beem were the key factors as the top-seeded Skyline Tigers claimed the Class 3 District 13 championship at Stockton, doubling up on the second-seeded Butler Bears 62-31.
Such a lopsided result did not appear to be in the cards early on as both teams struggled in the first quarter, particularly from long range. But Beem scored his team’s first eight points as the Tigers led 12-8 at the end of the initial period.
“I thought we were a little tight in the first half, a little nervous,” Skyline coach Tommy Egan said. “We tried to do a little too much one-on-one, trying to do it all by ourselves.”
During the quarter break Egan reminded his players to trust each other and the message was well received. From there on, the Tigers showed outstanding team speed and ball movement as Beem started hitting inside and out. Beem didn’t even realize how hot a night he had until it was over.
“I was just kind of playing, and big thanks to my teammates for getting me open looks,” Beem said. “Coach Egan’s put in a really great offense and we try to run it through and through.”
Jaytin DeFreece, a 6-2 junior, and Trey Swearingin, a 5-10 senior, added offensive support with 11 and 9 points respectively as the Tigers expanded a 31-18 halftime advantage to 56-22 after three, ensuring the fourth quarter would be played in turboclock.
“It’s a system based on moving without the ball and sharing the ball and having multiple options,” Egan explained. “They didn’t do that early on and when they settled down it opened it up a little bit.”
“It’s crazy to have a team (Skyline) that shoots as well as they do, that handle the ball the way they do and is unselfish as they are,” Bears coach Frankie Jackson said. “They share the ball better than any team I’ve actually seen this year.”
Skyline’s speed and press forced Butler to play at a faster pace than they really wanted. Even so, the Bears managed to get untold good looks down low that simply would not fall in.
“Coach Egan told us he was going to put us on that press,” Jackson said. “We were expecting it and their speed was causing us to have turnovers that led to a lot of easy transition points.”
“Our defense was key,” Egan said. “For four quarters we guarded, so that was big.”
Jagur Eidson, a 6-foot junior, was the only Bear in double figures with 10 points.
Skyline will host District 14 champion Summit Christian Academy of Lee’s Summit in the Class 3 state sectional round on Tuesday night. Summit routed Lafayette County 67-37.
Butler 8 10 4 9—31
Skyline 12 19 25 6—62
Butler (16-8): Jagur Eidson 10, Layton Gabriel 8, Gavin Brockman 6, Ryan Black 3, Andrew Beckley 2, Austyn Sargent 2.
Skyline (23-3): Lawson Beem 30, Jaytin DeFreece 11, Trey Swearingin 9, Zack Williams 4, Kourt Cheek 4.
3-point goals: Black, Beem 3, DeFreece 2, Swearingin.