For a man whose team overcame a 10-point deficit starting the fourth quarter to force overtime before falling, Blue Springs girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli still was noticeably disheartened Wednesday night at Blue Springs South High School.
The Wildcats forced overtime with Columbian Hickman when Aliyah Lee rebounded Morgan Hensley’s missed free throw with five seconds left and rolled in a putback to tie it at 39. But Hickman quickly seized control in the extra session and limited Blue Springs to just one field goal to post a 50-41 victory in the semifinals of the Blue Springs South/Blue Springs McDonald’s Tournament.
Hickman (4-0) will face South, a 62-24 winner over Pleasant Hill in the second semifinal (see separate story), in Saturday’s 5:15 p.m. championship game.
Blue Springs (1-3) turned the ball over its first two possessions of overtime, and the third resulted in a missed free throw. Meanwhile, the Kewpies got two free throws from Mikayla Logan, a three-point play by Kendahl Adams and another driving basket by Emily Miller for a comfortable margin.
“I’d like our chances if we learn to take care of the ball,” said Spigarelli, whose team committed 14 turnovers – nine in the middle two quarters. “The one positive is we intentionally missed the free throw and got the rebound and basket.”
Spigarelli was particularly distressed about his team’s defense, which he said is at the lowest level he’s seen during his Wildcat tenure.
Though Lee made three 3-pointers and a third-chance basket as Blue Springs led 13-4 in the early going, the Wildcats gave up several transition hoops and easy looks in the paint as the lead shrank to 20-18 by the end of the first quarter.
“When you shoot 60 or 70 percent in the first quarter (8 of 16 with four offensive rebounds) and you’re only ahead by two, you’ve lost the game right there,” Spigarelli said. “We’re shooting outside shots, and everything close to the basket.”
“We just weren’t into it and weren’t focused,” added junior guard Moriah Panuco. “We were letting the ball get into the middle.”
The Kewpies tightened their zone defense in second quarter, holding the Wildcats to just one basket to claim a 28-22 halftime lead. It was 37-27 heading into the fourth, but Hickman couldn’t pull away due in part to 12 second-half turnovers, and Panuco’s 3-pointer with three minutes left pulled the Wildcats within 37-34.
“We had a good game passing tonight,” Panuco said of her team’s comebacl, “and we made some tough shots.”
The Kewpies still clung to a 39-36 lead and leading scorer Miller at the foul line for a one-and-one with 10 seconds left. Miller missed her initial attempt, Blue Springs’ Madison Sykes rebounded and the Kewpies fouled Hensley to put her at the line for her own one-and-one.
The sophomore guard drained her first throw, and the second rimmed off far enough for Lee to grab the rebound for the tying putback in traffic.
But the Wildcats couldn’t sustain the momentum another four minutes.
“Once they started scoring,” Panuco said, “we kind of backed down.”
Lee’s hot hand cooled after her opening burst, as she finished with 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting and added nine rebounds and three steals. Sykes chipped in nine points and Panuco seven for the Wildcats. At the 3:22 mark of the third, center Morgan McMahan lunged to save a rebound off the baseline, smacked into the gym wall and fell in heap. She did not return after suffering at the very least a sore hip.
Miller led all players with 18 points and snared nine rebounds.