After treading water for the first half, much like it had the first couple months of the season with a senior-less roster, the Blue Springs girls basketball team pulled even with Blue Springs South in the third quarter, stormed ahead in the fourth and held off the Jaguars for a 55-51 win in the Class 5 District 13 semifinals at Raytown High School.
The Wildcats will take a 13-14 record into Friday’s final against Lee’s Summit North, which escaped against the host Blue Jays in Tuesday’s second semifinal. They lost 56-19 to North a month ago, but three games later surprised South on its home court to avenge an earlier loss, and a couple weeks ago lost just 36-34 at North.
“They’ve turned it around the last month, month and a half,” Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli said. “They’ve played with more mental toughness. We’ve been in every game we played.
“I felt good that we would come ready to play. Not necessarily that we would play well, but I could tell the girls were ready.”
Blue Springs South, which bowed out at 18-8, led 14-8 after one quarter and has high as 19-10 in the second before Blue Springs closed to 21-17 by halftime, a development that bothered South coach Brad Oyler.
“I thought we should’ve been building on it,” Oyler said of his team’s lead. “Instead we let them get a few baskets, and that gives them some confidence.”
Aliyah Lee, Blue Springs’ leading scorer, shot just 1 of 6 and committed three fouls in the first half, but she knocked down a corner 3-pointer to start the third. She scored 11 points in the quarter to help Blue Springs take a 34-33 lead into the fourth.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats were limiting the Jaguars to single looks at the other end. Morgan McMahan and Brianna Tauai each gathered 13 rebounds (four on the offensive end) as Blue Springs more than doubled South on the boards, 40-16. The Jaguars didn’t get an offensive rebound in the second half until the final seconds.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime – controlling the boards,” McMahan said. “They were getting too many offensive rebounds. Bri shut ’em down rebounding. We got all of them.”
Blue Springs guard Morgan Hensley then opened the fourth with a steal a layup to start an 11-2 push. Brooke Neal, Cloe Lane, Remy Davenport and Davenport again all hit 3-pointers for South – Davenport’s two treys coming in the final minute – to pull the Jaguars as close as 53-51, but the Wildcats made 8 of 9 free throws in the final period.
“If you want to play in games and you want to win championships, you got to rebound, and they beat us on the boards,” Oyler said. “We waited too long to start playing. We had too big a hole, and when we fouled they made free throws.”
Davenport finished with four 3-pointers and 20 points in her final game for South, Neal added 12 points and Lane pitched in 10 with five rebounds.
Lee’s 17 points paced Blue Springs, and had five of her six rebounds at the offensive end. Hensley added 11 points, Tauai and McMahan each contributed 10 and Madison Sykes hit a pair of 3-pointers for seven points.
“They played with heart and composure,” Spigarelli said. “Davenport was lighting it up, hitting some tough shots, and we stayed mentally tough and hit free throws.”
LEE’S SUMMIT NORTH 49, RAYTOWN 47: North stumbled to an 18-13 halftime lead and let a 27-18 lead in the third quarter slip away, but came up with enough clutch baskets in the fourth quarter to hold off the upset-minded Blue Jays.
A jumper by Raytown’s Secarya Webb with 3:35 left tied the game at 40, but the Broncos (20-5) responded with two Imani Johnson baskets sandwiched around Aaliyah Johnson’s assist to Stevie Anderson.
The Blue Jays’ Dajanae Wilson got fouled on a 3-point attempt with 1.6 seconds left and the score 48-44. She made all three free throws, but by making the third prevented the Jays (14-11) from getting a potential tying basket.
North coach Tricia Lillygren said it was a matter of surviving and advancing.
“We did enough to win,” she said. “We turned the ball over too much and our shot selection, I thought, wasn’t very good for most of the game. We missed nine free throws in the fourth quarter, 4 of 13, which is unlike us. Raytown played a fantastic game. But we got win No. 20.”
Imani Johnson scored 10 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter for North, Erica Nelson added 13 and Anderson nine.
Wilson and Philomena Landers paced Raytown with 13 apiece.