Hickman came up a little short.
The Kewpies boys’ basketball team lost 56-43 to Hazelwood Central on Sunday at Mizzou Arena.
Despite Hazelwood Central’s significant size advantage in the Show-Me State Games Shootout matchup, Hickman tried to play to its strengths.
“You have to do what you do best,” said Hickman guard Taylor Florence, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half to lead all scorers. “We run the court fast. We run the court hard. We try to do what we do best. Sometimes it’s there. Sometimes it’s not.”
Hickman’s tallest starter is 6-foot-3-inch senior Kyle Smith. Four of Hazelwood Central’s starters were taller than 6 feet, including 6-foot-6-inch senior Derrick Johnson and 6-foot-7-inch junior Alex Tyus.
It was the second time this season Hickman failed to overcome the disparity. The Hawks beat the Kewpies 73-60 on Dec. 14.
Nonetheless, the Kewpies (3-11) came out strong. After an early basket by Hickman guard Michael Washington and two free throws by Hickman forward Patrick Phillips, Hazelwood Central (11-2) took control. Taking the lead on a Johnson basket halfway through the first, Hazelwood Central never trailed again.
The Hawks led at the end of the first quarter 12-4, but by halftime, the Hazelwood Central had added only one point to their advantage, leading 22-13.
In a sloppy opening half for both teams, guard Stuart Denson and Washington led the Kewpies with four points a piece. Two 3-pointers by Denson forward Cray Logan kept the Hawks from pulling away before halftime.
The Kewpies matched the Hawks almost point for point in the second half thanks to Florence’s scoring spree. Washington added 10 points for the Kewpies.
“Our focus coming out of the locker room was to keep playing,” Florence said. “We’re trying to get better.”
But despite the gritty play of Florence-led Hickman, the frustrated Kewpies couldn’t shrink the Hawk’s lead to anymore than 6 in the second half.
A Florence shot midway through the third made the score 27-21. When Hazelwood Central pushed the lead back to 10, Washington and the Hickman bench were each tagged with technical fouls in a 12-second span at the end of the third quarter.
Hazelwood Central only outrebounded Hickman 19-15 in the second half. After halftime, the Kewpie guards continued to drive the lane with some success. Hazelwood Central only notched one block after halftime.
After the loss, Florence said the team is putting the disappointment behind and looking forward.
“We’re trying to gain momentum,” Florence said. “We’re trying to get into the right mind frame, as a team, to win the ball games – to put ball games away and hopefully come out with a district championship.”