Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make or break any sports team.
For the Blue Springs basketball team it was the latter.
The Wildcats were 3-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and 5-for-10 for the game, while Park Hill was a perfect 8-for-8 in the final period and 10-for-10 overall. Throw in a game-winning driving layup from Dru Smith with 2 seconds left and all those things added up to a 58-56 Suburban Big Seven loss for the Wildcats Tuesday at Park Hill High School.
“I love our chances with those two at the line because they are 80 percent free throw shooters,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said of Tyree King and RJ Lawrence, both of whom uncharacteristically missed free throws down the stretch. “Tonight it didn’t fall for them.”
Lawrence hit a running floater right before time expired at the end of the third period to give his team a 45-38 edge.
The Wildcats (6-5, 2-1 conference) had trouble stopping Park Hill on the dribble drive and it all started with a driving dunk from 6-foot-10 Roman Wilson. The Trojans scored all of their fourth-quarter points from either the paint or the free throw line.
Blue Springs led by 48-42 after Daniel Parker, who had a game-high 18 points, made 1 of 2 free throws. A hook shot inside and a pair of free throws from Chester Graves and a driving layup and a pair of free throws made by Smith guided the Trojans to an 8-0 run. That outburst was aided by missed layups from the Wildcats, giving the Trojans a 2-point lead.
Parker would not let his team go away as he drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 51-50 Blue Springs midway through the fourth. Park Hill took back the lead shortly after and held it until Parker’s putback and another 3-pointer from the left corner helped tie it at 56 with 7.7 seconds left.
During the ensuing timeout, Jones made sure to tell his players to do their best to stop one of Park Hill’s guards from penetrating to the basket.
Easier said than done.
Smith got free and had a clear lane for the game-winner during a contest Jones said his team let slip away.
“We talked about making sure they don’t have any blow-bys so they can go to the rim,” Jones said. “We didn’t get out there and close out very well. Dru Smith is a very good athlete and went out there and shot a layup, something he’s been doing since third grade.
“That’s disappointing because we played so much better on defense and got stops. We just didn’t get the job done at the end. We felt like we let one slip away tonight. This was a game that we felt like we were favored to win.”
Added King: “They have real athletic guards, so they were going to beat us a couple of times. We just have to play defense and do it as a team.”
A bright spot for the Wildcats was the involvement on offense of Cory Bonner to help out Blue Springs main scoring trio of Lawrence, King and Parker. He scored the team’s first six points and finished with eight.
“He plays his tail off on defense,” Jones said. “He’ll be undersized in just about any matchup we put him on. He guarded a 6-10 kid tonight. He’s doing a lot of things and has a lot of potential.”
King added 16 points and Lawrence finished with 12. Ronnie Bell paced Park Hill with 17 points, Smith finished with 15 and Graves scored 14.
“I feel like we can beat this team,” King said. “We just need to rebound and hit our free throws at the end of the game and execute down the stretch.”