You didn't have to be a senior to appreciate Blue Springs South's impressive 58-43 Senior Night home victory over Lee's Summit North Friday night.
Juniors Kevin Puryear and Brandon Kilgore sat on the bench while coach Jimmy Cain started a four-senior lineup that included Thomas Abarca, Kendall Blanton, Jacob Towler and fan favorite Paul Province.
“It was great watching our four seniors start this game,” said Puryear, who tied Kilgore for scoring honors with 13 points. “The seniors on this team are so special – they're our leaders – and they all deserve the chance to start tonight. It's their night.”
Kilgore, who set the defensive tone with six steals that he converted into four layups, agreed.
“I feel so good right now,” Kilgore said. “I feel good for our team, I feel good for our seniors and I feel good for our fans, who really came out and supported us tonight. You just look around at all the smiles and you know everyone is happy after this win.”
Abarca opened the game before a standing-room-only crowd with a long 3-pointer that had Jaguar Nation rocking.
“There's no better feeling than starting a game with a 3, especially when you're starting on Senior Night,” said Abarca, who finished with six points on two treys. “This isn't a team, this is a family. And it's so special to play with your family and to have the type of success we've had this season. No one wants it to end, and this is a great win to go into district (next week at Raytown High School).”
South, ranked sixth in the Class 5 state poll, improved to 20-4 overall and capped a second-straight Suburban Big Six title with a 9-1 mark. It was the third conference title in the past four years for the Jaguars.
“This was an emotional night,” said Towler, who finished with eight points. “It's the last time we play on this court and we want to go out with a win, and we were able to accomplish that. Now, we have to keep playing well and do our best to accomplish our biggest goal, and that's going to state.”
Kendall Blanton, a 6-foot-6 center, finished with seven points, but he altered several Bronco shots.
“I don't really care about scoring,” said Blanton, who will play football at the University of Missouri in the fall. “I want to play good defense and make other teams work for their shots. This was a big night for the seniors, and the underclassmen made sure we all got a big win.”
The youngest player on the court did some of the most damage as sophomore point guard K.J. Robinson hit three 3-pointers in the third period to help the Jaguars pull away from the Broncos, who finished the regular season at 10-14 and 3-7.
“K.J. had a great game,” Puryear said. “When we play like we did tonight, we are a complete team. I'm not saying we're a perfect team, but we have the good guard play and the big guys to get it done under the basket. This was a team win. And it feels good.”
North coach Mike Hilbert lavished praise on the Jaguars.
“They should represent the metro area at state – they're that good,” said Hilbert, who has taken his Broncos to the final four in Columbia. “They have the big guys, the great guards and a classy coach who knows how to get the most out of his team.
“This has been a good rivalry over the years, and the past couple of years Jimmy and his kids have been the better team. We were able to hang with them for a while, but they just wore us down in the second half.”
Cain said North played a big role in his team's shaky start as the Jags led just 14-11 after one period.
“Mike's kids work so hard, and they made it tough on us,” Cain said. “Then Brandon made some big steals and we started playing the way we're capable of playing. I'm proud of the guys. It was a good effort and we had great support from our fans.”