With one brilliant half of basketball, Wesley McCullough wiped away one awful quarter for Raymore-Peculiar.
Ray-Pec had only one point – that’s right, one point – to show for the second quarter of its home game against Lee’s Summit Tuesday night. McCullough had tallied zero over the first two periods.
But McCullough is a dead-eye shooter, and he’s only going to stay silent for so long. He erupted for 22 points in the second half, and that would be enough to spark the Panthers to a 57-48 Suburban Gold Conference victory at Ray-Pec.
McCullough, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, went zero for three in the first quarter and didn’t put up a shot during a painful-to-watch second quarter. But when the second half started, McCullough came out ready to shoot, and the Panthers came out ready to play.
“He’s a good player,” Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little said. “He’s the one kid you’ve really got to keep from getting shots. He got (22) points in the second half because we didn’t keep him from getting shots.”
McCullough got few shots even as Ray-Pec took command early with a 13-4 first-quarter run. Lee’s Summit couldn’t shoot either, and the Tigers trailed 13-7 after making just three of 18 field goal attempts in the opening period.
Lee’s Summit didn’t get much better in the second quarter, and Ray-Pec only got worse. Lee’s Summit’s effective full-court defensive pressure led to eight Panther turnovers as did three offensive fouls. And when the Panthers got good looks, they couldn’t hit them.
The Tigers pulled within 13-12 on a three-pointer by Kevin Hangust Jr. with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the quarter. It would be almost five minutes until Will Eames scored the next basket and put the Tigers ahead.
“There was a stretch there where both teams might have set the game of basketball back a few years,” Little said.
Ray-Pec didn’t get on the board until JeVon Williams made one of two free throws, and the two teams went to halftime with Lee’s Summit up 17-14.
“The second quarter wasn’t good,” McCullough said. “We weren’t moving the ball. But after halftime, we started to play together.”
Ray-Pec coach Scott Jermain expected McCullough to warm up in the second half, but he knew it would take a collective effort to get the Panthers going. His top scorer did get hot – McCullough made seven of eight shots and was four-for-four from three-point range – but Jermain said that was because the players surrounding him were playing better.
“Every one of his shots someone has to screen for him, pass it to him, so we focused pretty hard on the efforts of all,” Jermain said. “But he did knock down some shots and that was big for us.”
McCullough knocked down a shot from the lane early in the third quarter to break Ray-Pec’s long drought. Lee’s Summit stayed in front most of the third quarter until he hit two free throws for a 29-29 tie, and he put the Panthers ahead for good when he scored at the start of the fourth quarter.
Lee’s Summit was still within 34-31 when McCullough made a three in transition after blocking a shot. That sparked a string of three transition buckets and a 10-2 run that ended with the Panthers up 44-33.
I thought the kids responded pretty well in the second half and Lee’s Summit played pretty well in the second half, too,” Jermain said. “We just made some plays down the stretch and stretched it out a little bit.”
Hangust and Delshaun Presley scored nine points each to lead 6-15 Lee’s Summit, which is still searching for its first Suburban Gold Conference win. Ray-Pec, 5-14, notched its first conference win after coming close in recent nail-biters against Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit North.