With the Suburban Big Six conference title and district seeding already in hand, Lee’s Summit North coach Tricia Lillygren decided to let other players shoulder the full load Thursday night at Blue Springs South.
The host Jaguars, aiming to secure second place behind the Broncos, stymied North for the first three quarters and withstood a late rally to post a 53-46 win in the teams’ regular season finale.
Senior Imani Johnson, the area’s leading scorer at 17.6 points per game, did not dress for Thursday’s game. Lillygren simply said, “It was her night off,” and assured the Southeast Missouri recruit and North’s all-time leading scorer would be back for the district tournament.
“We needed to get some good time for a lot of kids,” said Lillygren, whose team finished the regular season 19-5 overall and 8-2 in the Big Six. “We strengthened our team as a whole. At this point and time, we need to get stronger.”
The Broncos claimed 10-9 lead when Erica Nelson hit a driving layup and South coach Brad Oyler called timeout with 2:35 left in the first. But by then senior forward Jaden Powell, who scored six early points, was on the bench with two fouls, and Nelson, the team’s second-leading scorer, didn’t make another field goal.
South (18-7, 7-3) got a second-chance basket from Cloe’ Lane and Remy Davenport’s 24-foot buzzer-beating heave for a 14-10 lead at the first stop, and the Jaguars then reeled off the first 11 points of the second quarter.
“One thing I liked, especially the second and third quarters, was we were patient on offense,” Oyler said. “There was one possession in the third, we ran a lot of time off and one girl (Brooke Neal) hit a 3-pointer.”
Neal tallied a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, including 7 of 8 on free throws to help close out the win after Powell’s three-point play with 58.4 seconds left in the fourth pulled the Broncos within 48-42. Lane’s 17 points paced the Jaguars, and Davenport added 11 points and eight boards.
South led 33-19 at halftime, and Lane’s basket to open the fourth made it 46-26 before the Broncos put together a 13-0 run to make it interesting.
“They’re pretty good at taking the ball to the basket, so we had to stop dribble penetration,” Neal said. “The whole team played hard, and we defended well as a team. We rebounded pretty hard on the offensive and defensive boards.”
Powell finished with a career-high 24 points, shooting 8 of 13 from the field and 7 of 8 from the foul line. Stevie Anderson added nine points and Taylor Creason seven, but the Broncos shot 16 of 51 from the field.
“We were able to identify some strengths to play off of, and I’m pleased we were able to create some turnovers late and put the ball in the basket,” Lillygren said. “Jaden had a career night. She didn’t have a turnover, she shot the ball well and she went to the line well.”
Led by Neal and Davenport, who each added a pair of blocks, the Jaguars owned a 37-26 rebounding advantage, including 13 offensive boards.
“That’s something we talked about where we’ve got to do a better job,” said Oyler, whose team faces rival Blue Springs in Class 5 District 13 semifinal Tuesday at Raytown. “We’ve been doing a good job on the defensive boards, but we’ve got to go get some offensive rebounds.
“We’re not that big of a team, and we need to have that fight in us.”