Two months ago, the senior-less girls basketball team at Blue Springs High School might not pulled a victory out of a game like Thursday.
But at rival Blue Springs South, the Wildcats played tough enough defense to survive an 11-minute scoring drought in the second half, then countered two clutch hoops by the Jaguars with even bigger ones of their own and finally escaped South’s gymnasium with a 45-43 Suburban Big Six win.
The victory wasn’t secure until South’s Cloe’ Lane caught a baseline inbound Brooke Neal with 1.5 seconds left and her shot from just off the block was long.
Lane’s jumper from the right wing off Tiffany Davenport’s assist tied the score at 43 with 15 seconds left, but Blue Springs point guard Morgan Hensley hurried the ball up court and found an open Brianna Tauai for the go-ahead basket.
“Morgan Hensley just took the ball and went through them, and it left me open,” Tauai said.
“A solid scramble situation – the kid made a good play,” added Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli, whose team improved to 10-11 overall and 3-2 in the Big Six.
South coach Brad Oyler got a timeout with five seconds left, and after the Jaguars inbounded from in front of their bench Tauai knocked away an entry pass to set up the last bit of drama.
“Just don’t foul. I was more scared about costing us the game,” said Tauai, who also blocked a potential game-tying layup by Remy Davenport just before Lane’s jumper did tie it.
South (14-6, 3-3) which just a couple weeks ago had snapped a 16-game losing streak to Blue Springs, took a 41-40 and capped a 10-0 run that stretched back to the third quarter when Davenport got a tipped rebound of her own long-range miss and banked in a putback with two minutes to play.
Blue Springs, which hadn’t scored since past the midway point of the third, promptly answered when Aliyah Lee’s 3-pointer from the corner rolled around the rim and did a stationary spin before falling through the hoop with 1:47 left.
The Wildcats had a chance to extend their lead after a pair of Jaguar misses and two fouls, but Hensley missed the front end of a one-and-one with 50 seconds left.
Ultimately though, Blue Springs didn’t crack, including at the end of the first quarter when they faced 16-8 deficit and had committed seven turnovers in less than six minutes.
“We did a real good job of staying together,” Spigarelli said. “I’m real proud of how they played mentally. It was maybe our best mental game.
“I told them before the last second, let’s see how much we’ve grown,” referring back to the season opener against Kearney, which beat Blue Springs with a buzzer-beater after a last-second inbound. “I don’t like the caliber of shot they got, but I’ll take the result.”
After that early bulge by the Jaguars, Madison Sykes hit a 3-pointer to start what became an 11-0 run by the Wildcats. Lee came off the bench to score 11 of her 21 points in the second quarter, and Blue Springs took a 31-29 lead into halftime. In the third quarter, she had seven points and an assist as the lead ballooned to 40-31.
Meanwhile, Oyler’s team sputtered after the first six minutes.
“We weren’t patient offensively,” he said. “We had one or two passes and we’re throwing up a shot. They didn’t have to play defense much.
“They got hot the second quarter. It wasn’t so much our defense as they hit shots. Then, our impatience on offense, and we were not hitting shots. Maybe it was just one of those games – they had some bounces go their way and we missed some close shots. The last shot was just an example.”
Even as its offense went cold Blue Springs forced South to inch its way back. Before Remy Davenport’s go-ahead putback, the Jaguars previous six points had come from 11 free throw attempts.
“Whenever your struggling on offense, when you play hard on defense, it can all come together,” said Lee, who also had six rebounds and a pair of steals. “We moved the ball well the first three quarters. I think the fourth quarter got to our heads. We just needed to stamp down and play defense.”
Sykes added eight points for Blue Springs, which shot 7 of 16 on 3-pointers. Tauai and Morgan McMahan, who battled foul trouble all night, snared seven rebounds apiece.
Lane’s 22 points and seven rebounds led South. Remy Davenport added 10 points and seven rebounds, but no other Jaguar had more than three points as South shot 13 of 47 from the floor.