Even though it came up a bit short, the Blue Springs High School boys basketball team proved it can play with an elite team.
The Wildcats used a furious fourth-quarter rally to trim an 11-point deficit to just three (54-51) with 19 seconds left when Taysean Goodwin hit both ends of a one-and-one in Tuesday’s home game against Grandview.
The heavily favored Bulldogs had missed five consecutive free throws, but Nelson Nweke hit one of his final two attempts from the line with just three seconds left on the scoreboard clock to give Grandview a slim 55-51 victory.
Blue Springs (5-5) took an 18-16 lead into the second quarter despite the fact that its lone starter with any varsity experience, Cody Isabel, was on the bench with two fouls.
Kirk Finley hit two 3-pointers and Darius Vaughn and Kai Miller each added treys, and the 8-2 Bulldogs discovered the Wildcats were going to make the night interesting.
The Bulldogs' go-to player, senior guard Tyrone Taylor, hit three 3-pointers to rally Grandview and help his team take a 27-25 halftime lead.
“Our big goal tonight defensively was to hold down Taylor, and we did a pretty good job,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “But they are so big, and so physical, and we didn't do much of anything right in the third period.”
The Wildcats turned the ball over on their first four possessions of the second half and Grandview ran off to a 9-2 advantage to pad its lead to 36-27.
“The third quarter really hurt us,” said Finley, who led the Wildcats with 14 points. “If we'd have taken care of the ball in the third quarter and hit any of our layups, we might have won the game.”
Grandview took a 43-34 lead into the fourth quarter and hit a quick basket to make it double-digit lead. But that just seemed to fire up the Wildcats.
“Cody is the only player we have with any significant varsity playing time,” Jones said. “So we have a lot of players out there who are still learning how to win in situations like they faced tonight.
“If we play the start of the third quarter like we did the rest of the game, it's still close and we're not having to play catch up for the entire second half.”
Goodwin came off the bench and scored six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, including all four free throws in the closing minutes.
Two turnovers and five missed free throws by Grandview allowed the opportunistic Wildcats to get back in the game.
“We're young and we can learn a lot from this game,” Finley said. “We certainly learned that we have to take care of the ball. And we have to make the easy shots. We did a good job hitting free throws (6 of 6 in the fourth quarter) and we came close.
“We can build on this. A game like this can help us the next time we're in a close ballgame.”
Miller finished with 10 and Vaughn added eight for Blue Springs.
Grandview's Taylor led all scorers with 17 points, and Damon King added 13 for the Bulldogs.