The last few minutes had more drama than Blue Springs South boys basketball coach Jimmy Cain and the Jaguar faithful at Lee’s Summit High School cared to witness, even if Cain said he anticipated some of it.
But the end result – a 64-60 win that clinched back-to-back outright Suburban Big Six Conference championships for the Jaguars – wasn’t worth celebrating any less.
Trailing by 10 with less than three minutes left, the host Tigers clawed back to within two before junior Kevin Puryear drained a pair of free throws with 3.8 seconds left to ice the win for South (19-4, 8-1 Big Six).
“I think we just needed to keep our composure,” said the 6-foot-7 Puryear, who led all players with 28 points and 14 rebounds. “They hit some big shots, and we hit a couple big free throws.”
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” he said of winning the conference title with a game still to play. “Most of these guys didn’t play varsity last year, so it’s really special for them. We came together as a team.”
“Senior year, conference champs – it’s always good to put that banner up,” added senior forward Kendall Blanton, who contributed nine points and six rebounds to the Jaguars’ cause.
Puryear’s tip-in gave South a 15-14 lead after the first quarter, Brandon Kilgore’s eight points helped boost the Jaguars to a 30-26 halftime edge and Puryear hit a couple 3-pointers and had eight points in the third. A buzzer-beating tip-in, this one by 6-foot-8 Jacob Towler, made it 48-37 entering the fourth.
Lee’s Summit (16-7, 6-3) shot just 4 of 15 in the third, and Cain said getting defensive stops was key to the third-quarter push.
“They’re such a good team offensively, and when we got stops we always felt good about what we were doing offensively,” Cain said. “We were able to get the ball inside, and we were able to get a little lead, which we needed every bit of.”
When sophomore point guard K.J. Robinson got a floater to fall with less than three minutes remaining, the Jaguars led 58-48.
Lee’s Summit’s last-ditch rally started with Drew Lock’s long 3-pointer, and Bruce Bias was fouled during a theft of Robinson and sank two free throws with 2:08 left.
A couple South misses at the foul line, a turnover and two Bias baskets later, the Tigers were within 59-57 with 58 seconds left.
Puryear was fouled rebounding his own miss and made both ends of a one-and-one, but Lock’s steal and lay-in made it 61-59 with 24 seconds left.
Blanton split a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game with 19.6 showing. Blake Spellman missed a 3-pointer at the other end, but Jordan Bennett secured a tipped offensive rebound. Following a timeout, Kilgore fouled Lock before he could get off a shot, putting him at the line for two.
Lock managed to make the second shot before Puryear finished off the Tigers.
The 6-foot-5 Lock, who like Puryear is a Division I college prospect, finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but the Jaguars made him earn his points on 7-of-20 shooting from field, including 3 of 11 from long range. Bias added 12 points and Spellman 10 for the Tigers.
First-year Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little said his team settled too much for long jump shots in the third quarter.
“For us, when we attack we’re really good,” he said. “When we were settling we dug a hole; we gave them some easy shots. We dug ourselves two holes, the first one really early (11-1).”
Kilgore finished with 13 points for the Jaguars, and Robinson (5 assists) matched Blanton’s nine points.
“Obviously we were expecting them to come back and fight to the end, and they did,” Cain said. “They created some turnovers, but the kids hung tough.”
“We knew they would push back,” Blanton added. “I think we just had to huddle up and tell everybody, ‘We got this.’”
Got the game, got the title.