The Blue Springs boys basketball team spends between 45 minutes and an hour per practice working on defense, junior forward Brian Armstrong said.
On Monday afternoon in the William Jewell Holiday Classic, the Wildcats saw a payoff for that sweat equity.
Blue Springs led Fort Osage 51-48 with 3.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Patterson Division consolation final at William Jewell College. However, Fort Osage had possession under the Blue Springs basket following a Blue Springs turnover. The Indians wanted to get the ball to their perimeter shooters and sink a 3-point basket to force overtime.
It didn’t happen.
Blue Springs shut down the perimeter, forcing Fort Osage to settle for a Willie Penamon layup. Time expired and the Wildcats held on for a 51-50 victory to improve to 4-4.
“We were using our five guys to guard the ball and the perimeter – and if they were going to take the two, we were going to give it to them,” Wildcats coach Adam Jones said. “They were out of timeouts, so the only thing they could’ve done was called timeout and get a technical foul.”
Armstrong was nervous when Fort Osage (5-4) got the ball and was anticipating Penamon to hit a game-tying jumper, he said.
“But we just played defense like we always do at practice,” Armstrong said. “We work on defense, defense, defense – get stops. Defense wins basketball games.”
Early on, though, it didn’t appear that a late defensive stop would help determine the Patterson Division’s fifth-place winner. Fort Osage led 18-2 after one quarter. Blue Springs’ only points came from a field goal by Darius Vaughn, who would finish with 15 points.
“We just made them take bad shots,” Fort Osage senior guard Brian Starr said of the opening quarter. “We boxed out and rebounded every possession, kept a hand in the faces and made them really uncomfortable. We had really good ball pressure also.”
Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson agreed.
“We did everything we’ve been working on,” Wilson said. “They didn’t have very many easy shots.”
Sparked by an 11-1 run, the Wildcats, though, outscored the Indians 16-5 the second quarter to make it an eight-point margin at halftime. They then outscored the Indians 15-12 the third quarter. Cody Isabel’s lay-in during the closing seconds cut Fort Osage’s lead to 36-33 entering the final quarter.
The Wildcats opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run and forced the Indians to play catch-up the rest of the way. Blue Springs stretched its lead to five twice during the final 30 seconds, only to watch Starr answer with buckets.
With 29.7 seconds left and the score 47-44 Blue Springs, Armstrong sank two foul shots to finish 9 of 9 from the line and collect the last of his team-leading 17 points. Starr’s jumper with 22.5 seconds left again made it a three-point game.
Of his fouls shots, Armstrong said: “Today, I was just feeling it, and I was just flicking my wrist more (than usual) and I was making them. I was kind of nervous, but I made them all and I was … happy.”
Kirk Finley’s two foul shots with 13.8 seconds left made it 51-46. Starr’s putback with 4.5 seconds left set up the final dramatics.
“I was just trying to make plays,” said Starr, who led Fort Osage with 12 points, followed by Skylar Thompson with 11.
For Jones, pulling out the victory capped a tournament in which the Wildcats displayed their “resiliency” and “toughness.” For Wilson, the loss capped Fort Osage’s participation in what he considers to be among the state’s top tournaments. It also provided an occasion for self-evaluation.
“We saw, the first quarter, the team we can be and the team we want to be,” Wilson said. “And then, we saw in the last three quarters the team that we kind of are being at times that’s kind of keeping us back, which, as the coach, is something that we’ve just got to get to work and fix.”
WILLIAM CHRISMAN 60, KEARNEY 53: A tiebreaking 10-0 run in the fourth quarter lifted the Bears to a fifth-place finish in the Nelson Division.
After a timeout with 4:04 remaining and the score knotted at 45, putbacks by Brett Pendergist and Chris Horn, a pair of Kearney turnovers, Alex Ball’s 3-pointer and Pendergist’s transition basket after a Kearney miss gave the Bears (4-3) a comfortable lead. Kearney got no closer than five the rest of the way.
Horn poured in 12 first-quarter points on his way to a game-high 21, including four 3-pointers. Ball added 11 points and Pendergist 10 with three assists for Chrisman, which shot 19 of 38 from the field, including 6 of 13 from long range, and 16 of 24 on free throws.
“We shot the ball fairly well, which we needed to because they’re bigger than us,” Chrisman coach Chad Wright said. “We got to the hole a little better, and we played good defense, I thought.”
Tanner Owen had 17 points and Dray Starzl added 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead Kearney (4-3).
TRUMAN 68, PLEASANT HILL 58: The Patriots built a 35-26 halftime lead, then opened the second half with a 10-0 run on their way to claiming fifth place in the Chick-fil-A/Cardinal Division.
The Roosters got no closer than 54-43 until the final score, as Truman (3-6) shot 25 of 51 field and had a 27-17 rebounding edge, including 10 offensive boards.
“Second-chance points were big. We needed that after missing so many layups,” Truman coach Billy Guinnee said. “We got a lot of great looks, but we missed a lot of shots you kind of take for granted.”
Reid Titus hit three 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 22 points, while fellow guard Dewayne Thornton pumped in 21 points, snared six rebounds and seven steals and dished out five assists. Young pitched in 14 points.
Josh Shewmaker’s 15 points led Pleasant Hill (3-3).
Truman reached the fifth-place game with its 42-40 win Saturday over St. Pius X. The Patriots outscored the Warriors 20-5 in the second quarter for a 25-17 halftime lead and held on in the second half, as the Warriors missed a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute.
Titus’ 13 points and four rebounds led Truman, while Thornton and Michael Hernandez added seven points apiece.
In their first game Friday night, the Patriots fell 76-62 to Raytown, which outscored them 20-5 in the second quarter for a 36-28 halftime lead. Raytown shot 32 of 50 and owned a 37-18 rebounding advantage, as 6-foot-7 junior Jailen Gill piled up 37 points and 18 rebounds.
“We didn’t have an answer for him,” Guinnee said.
Deandre Young had 18 points, including four 3-pointers, and Titus added 16 for the Patriots.