Just call Darius Vaughn and Cody Isabel the two sole survivors of the Class of 2014 for Blue Springs boys basketball.
During the 2010-11 season, 22 freshmen played for the Wildcats. Fast forward four years later to Senior Night, just two remain – Vaughn and Isabel – and they weren’t about to go out with a loss.
Isabel was the high man for Blue Springs scoring 13 points and hauling in eight rebounds, while Vaughn added eight points and a pair of assists during a 59-51 win over Raymore-Peculiar Thursday night on their home floor.
“That just shows how tough those two are,” said Wildcat coach Adam Jones, whose team finished the regular season 13-11 overall and 4-6 in the Suburban Big Six. “This game is hard. You have to be mentally tough. Every time we had an open gym or the weight room was open, those guys were there. They proved they have what it takes to be a Blue Springs Wildcat.”
“We wanted to leave out legacy out here,” Isabel added. “We had 32 minutes to do it, and we did.”
The triumph didn't come easy for the Wildcats. After racing out to an early 8-2 advantage, the Panthers cut that in half to make it 10-7 after one quarter. Offensive rebounds kept Ray-Pec in the contest throughout, as it had five putbacks in the contest, two of them in the second period. Ben Harris, who gave Isabel a battle all night in the post, tied the game at 14-14 with his putback before Nick Janssen's 3-pointer gave Ray-Pec its first lead a possession later.
“Harris is a big guy who is strong as an ox,” Isabel said. “He didn’t play football, surprisingly. We always end up battling down there.”
The Wildcats clawed back to take a 20-17 lead going into the break following a Tyree King 3-pointer. It was back and forth throughout most of the third period until Blue Springs' zone press helped create some separation. Tied at 26-26, the Wildcats went on a 8-4 run to make it 36-30 at the end of three quarters.
The tenacious defense continued into the fourth, and the Wildcats finally got some significant breathing room when Brian Armstrong made a layup off a Panther turnover to give his team an 11-point edge early in the fourth. From there, Blue Springs toed the line, shooting 15 for 16 from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the win.
“We knew we had to just believe in each other and pick it up on defense,” Vaughn said. “That’s how we’re going to win games.”
In the final four seconds, Jones took Vaughn and Isabel out on separate possessions so both could get a round of applause while walking off their home floor for the last time.
“It felt really good to walk off a winner on our home court for the last time,” Vaughn said. “I am going to miss it.”
Jones knows even with those gone at the end of the season, his team sets up nicely for the future with a talented core of young players – King, who had 11 points, being one of them. Juniors Taysean Goodwin and Armstrong had eight points apiece, Kirk Finley added seven and Kai Miller chipped in with four.
“We have some good balance scoring-wise with those younger kids,” Jones said. “We’re excited about that they are going to do behind our two seniors.”