When Sydney Offield's first free throw hit nothing but net with .06 of a second left in the game, nearly everyone on the Blue Springs South bench dropped their heads.
A day removed from knocking off No. 2-ranked Kearney and beating rival Blue Springs just a week ago, the Jaguars realized their seven-game winning streak came to an end with that free throw in a 54-52 loss to Liberty in the championship game of the Northland Classic girls basketball tournament Friday.
The charity stripe was the difference maker, as South shot just 3 of 9 from the line and Liberty made 12 of 15.
“We shot a terrible free-throw percentage tonight,” South coach Brad Oyler said. “We have to make those in close games. We just didn't do it.”
The Jaguars (14-5) seemed to have the Blue Jays right where they wanted them late in the game. Remy Davenport, who had a team-high 14 points, canned a 3-pointer from the key with two minutes left in the game to put her team up 48-46. Just a few seconds later, the senior came up with a steal which led to a fast-break bucket form Brooke Neal.
Liberty fought back to tie the game at 50 on a pair of Morgan Fleming free throws, but just moments later, Neal scored another fast-break hoop off a Tiffany Davenport steal to make it 52-50. After another Liberty turnover, Courtney Thorpe had a chance to ice the game at the free-throw line, but came up short on both.
The Blue Jays took advantage. Offield hit a pair of free throws to tie it, which gave the Jaguars the ball with 14 seconds left. Tiffany Davenport worked the ball down the court and had a pass knocked out of bounds which left 7 seconds. South tried to get the ball into the paint, but the pass was stolen by the Blue Jays, and just before time expired, the Jaguars committed a costly foul to send Offield to the line for the game-winning free throws.
“She's been solid on free throws all year,” Liberty coach Noah Simpson said of Offield. “She's a sophomore, and you can see she gets a little tense at the line sometimes, but she stepped up and hit some big ones tonight.”
The Blue Jays led throughout most of the contest and dominated on the offensive glass, seemingly beating South to the punch any chance they got. Liberty led 10-4 after one period and fended off the Jaguars with suffocating defense to go into halftime up 21-17.
“They really kicked our rear on the offensive boards,” Oyler said.
Cloe' Lane made a layup to give South its first lead of the game with 3:31 left in the third. But Liberty's Abby Gentrup made that lead short-lived when she hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the period put the Jays ahead by three.
The fourth quarter was a wild one, featuring five ties and seven lead changes, with the most important one coming with less than a second remaining.
Oyler admits he has seen this movie before. It was the third second-place tournament finish for his Jaguars, and their fourth loss to Liberty in the last two years.
“We're having a hard time winning championships,” Oyler said. “We have to learn what it takes to make the plays offensively when it counts. This has been my fourth game against Liberty since I have been here, and every one of them has been like this. We come up on the short side every time.”
Lane was named tournament most valuable player and Remy Davenport made the all-tournament team.