Kevin Puryear’s performance Thursday afternoon at the Mabee Center was a fine example of how a player’s shooting touch in warmups and in a game can be quite different.
Blue Springs South’s 6-foot-7 junior forward netted 13 points in the first quarter on his way to 37 points – just less than his team’s total – in the Jaguars 76-44 runaway win over O’Hara in the first round of Nelson Division play in the Niles Media Group William Jewell Holiday Classic.
It probably wasn’t the game Puryear thought was in store before the opening tip.
“I was missing quite a bit, so I thought it might be a problem,” said Puryear, who swished three 3-pointers in first quarter. “After I shot the first one, I felt ‘let’s try it again.’ I had the hot hand, so you keep shooting.”
Actually, Puryear’s first shot was skying dunk off Brandon Kilgore’s lob on the game’s opening possession. After his trio of treys, Puryear added a putback off a teammate’s miss from long range. Point guard K.J. Robinson added two three pointers of his own to help the Jaguars (4-1) to a 21-7 lead after the first quarter.
Puryear had 11 points in the second quarter, including 5-of-5 free throws and another dunk off a Thomas Abarca assist during a 10-0 run to finish the period, as South’s lead ballooned to 42-15 by halftime.
By itself, South’s 12-of-26 shooting from the floor in the first half wasn’t outstanding, but the Jaguars also made 12 of 13 free throws and didn’t commit a single turnover.
“We were really efficient,” said South coach Jimmy Cain, whose team plays Rockhurst in the semifinals Saturday evening. “I think we had us for five possessions where we didn’t score. Thomas Abarca (generously listed 6-foot guard) actually spearheaded our good production on the offensive glass.”
Puryer capped his afternoon with 11 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair three-point plays. He finished 14 of 15 on free throws and snared eight rebounds.
“Coach had been on us about having an aggressive mindset,” Puryear added. “When we attack the rim well, we’re more solid.”
O’Hara (6-3) got no closer than 19 a couple times in the second half, but the Jaguars’ effort compared to the Celtics’ had Cain a bit perturbed afterwards. The Jaguars fouled enough to put the Celtics in the bonus with 2:41 left in the third.
“Defensively, I felt like we were in the right spots in the first half,” Cain said. “Even though we talked about this at halftime, I felt we kind of got outworked in the second half. That’s something that needs to change, because we need to get better every day.
“But credit to O’Hara for fighting back and outworking us.”
Robinson tallied 16 points and five assists to back Puryear. Kilgore added seven points and three steals and Jacob Towler six rebounds and three blocks for the Jaguars.
Isaac Uche’s 12 points and four rebounds paced the Celtics, and Dezmond McDaniel scored all 11 of his points in the second half and dished out eight assists.
“The first half we kind of backed down and let them intimidate us,” O’Hara coach Mark Scannlon said. “The second half we fought harder.
“They’re very good,” he said of the Jaguars, “and of course, their size gave us a little trouble.”
Cain said the Jaguars probably will be without sophomore forward Briley Moore-McKinney for the balance of the season. Moore-McKinney is on crutches after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee during the team's win last week over Park Hill.