Win or lose, Saturday was going to be a learning experience for the Blue Springs South boys basketball team.
The Jaguars ultimately dropped a 50-47 decision to Shawnee Mission South, last year’s unbeaten Kansas Class 5A state champion, after two shots in the final seconds went off target. The Raiders’ Dainan Swoope, a first-team all-state player last season as a sophomore, split a pair of free throws with 17.9 seconds remaining after K.J. Robinson’s 3-pointer pulled the Jaguars within 49-47.
Saturday’s non-league contest was the back end of a Hy-Vee Shootout makeup doubleheader at Avila University’s Mabee Fieldhouse, postponed from Dec. 21 due to inclement weather. Jaguars coach Jimmy Cain said the loss, which snapped the Jaguars’ seven-game win streak, still can be beneficial.
“Definitely,” Cain said. “To play a team that was undefeated and won a state title – I felt they had a little more comfort in this environment at the beginning of the game.
“We want this kind of game. If we want to accomplish things at the end of the season, we have to know how to handle this.”
The Jaguars (8-2) committed six turnovers in falling behind 15-5 through one quarter, and the deficit still would have been double digits at halftime if not for Thomas Abarca’s corner 3-pointer with a minute-plus remaining in the second quarter that made it 26-17.
“We had some trouble at the line (4 of 11 on first-half free throws), and I think that was deflating early on,” Cain said. “It put pressure on us defensively because of that.”
But Abarca’s trey marked the beginning of a 12-0 run. Kevin Puryear started the second half with a three-point play, Kendall Blanton followed with a tip-in and putback and Puryear’s jumper tied it at 26 with 5:42 showing. A couple minutes later Abarca swished a 3-pointer for what proved to be Blue Springs South’s only lead at 29-28.
“Once we slowed ourselves down, we were much better with the ball,” Cain said. “Against a team with that kind of speed and talent on the perimeter, we were going to have to take care of the ball.
“Credit the guys for coming out in the second half and defending like we have all year.”
Swoope got the Raiders (6-1) back on track with a coast-to-coast drive for an eventual three-point play, and after a Jaguar turnover he got a 3-pointer to bounce in and converted a four-point play with 3.9 seconds showing.
Again, Abarca provided some reprieve, as his buzzer-beating 30-footer made it 35-32 for the fourth quarter, but the Jaguars got no closer until Puryear hit a pair of free throws with 2 minutes left to make it 44-42.
Shawnee Mission South then bled nearly a minute off the block before Ra-Keim Abdul drove the lane and dished an assist Hunter Ahrens, who converted a back-breaking three-point play with one minute left.
The Raiders made the Puryear work for all of his 20 points. The 6-foot-7 star forward made 4 of 9 from the field and 12 of 17 free throws and added six rebounds. Robinson added seven points, and the 6-7 Blanton tallied six points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. The Jaguars owned a 33-25 rebounding advantage but committed seven more turnovers (15-8).
Swoope’s 21 points and four steals led Shawnee Mission South. He hit 10 of 11 free throws.
“We’re a good team when we need it,” Blanton said when asked what his team could take from Saturday’s loss. “We’ve got to come out the first half like we did the second half. They jumped on us early. They were a good team, but we’ve got to come out prepared.”