COLUMN: Pirates show perseverance in upset win against Harmon


Even though it's just two games into the season, times are definitely changing for the better for the boys basketball program at Piper High School.

After coming up just short of upsetting Mill Valley at home last Friday, the Piper Pirates boys basketball team earned a huge victory in the Panthers Invitational Monday night against the Harmon Hawks.

Piper entered the tournament as the eighth-seed, while Harmon was the top seed in the tournament.

Dominique Jennings led the way for the Pirates with a double-double - 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Jennings was joined by Luke Long and C.J. Harper as Pirates scorers in double-figures. Long, coming off a 19-point performance against Mill Valley, followed it up with 12 points. Harper added 10 points against Harmon.

While the statistics and numbers are nice, it's the way Piper defeated Harmon that should encourage Piper fans.

1. Piper's offense looked pretty darn good in the first half. After struggling all year offensively last year, the Pirates offense had a good flow and the team is much improved from last year. They led by three scores at one point in the first half. Long's five quick points in the game were key to a great start for the Pirates.

2. After Harmon responded in the second half, the Pirates did not fold. Piper had one of the single toughest shooting stretches I've seen in a long, long time. Easy put-backs were missed. Wide-open threes rimmed out. Piper's offense did a nice job of setting up shots, but they just did not fall. The cold streak allowed Harmon to build a 10-point lead.

3. Piper responded with the help of Harmon's shot selection and missed free throws. Harmon did not do a good job of running clock in the game and missed some key free throws. However, the Pirates deserve a ton of credit for tying the game and forcing overtime after they were down by 10 points with three minutes left to go in the game. Those comebacks don't happen unless you have a team with character. It's clear Piper's squad is full of character and talent.

Piper has proven that they are much improved after a tough season last year and a bad one two years ago.

The Pirates flag may be going back up on the basketball ship.

Second-year coach Steve Wallace deserves a lot of the credit as well. Toughness and hustle - two more attributes for the Piper win - are a reflection of good coaching. This Piper team is considerably tougher and the hustle they displayed in rebounding and steals demonstrated that.

Long, Calvin Johnson and Vince Eskina all had two steals in the game. Johnson had a nice effort with five points and six assists.

The Kaw Valley League favorites - Lansing, Mill Valley and Basehor-Linwood - better not overlook the Pirates this season.

Piper has the ability to beat anyone of those teams on a given night.

Between Bonner Springs' 41-point win and Piper's upset against the 5A runner-ups from Harmon in Paola today, the Kaw Valley League race could be a fun one this season.