Naia Tauai considered Blue Springs South’s 71-51 loss to Lincoln Prep Friday night in the Northland Classic championship game to be a lesson in humbleness.
“Tonight was not a good game for us,” the senior forward said after the loss at North Kansas City High School. “But we learned that we’ve got to stick with it, no matter what. … I think it can really help us.”
Jaguars coach Brad Oyler agreed – and suggested the loss served up a lesson in the importance of intensity, too.
“They had more fire than we did,” Oyler said. “They won every category you can possibly win, except for turnovers – and we won that one. … They shot the ball well. They played hard on defense. They got us on the boards.”
Technically, the Jaguars (14-5) had a better field goal percentage than the Blue Tigers (16-3) did. Unofficially, South shot 47.4 percent from the field, compared to 46.8 percent by Lincoln Prep. But Lincoln Prep made more shots from the field than South did. The Blue Tigers made 29 field goals, including seven 3-pointers. Brionna Budgetts, who paced the Blue Tigers with 29 points, accounted for five of those treys. Sidney Sawyer, who contributed 12 points, made the other two.
By contrast, the Jaguars made 18 field goals, with only three treys. Tauai, who paced South with 22 points and received the tournament’s Hustle Award, scored half of South’s field goals. The treys were evenly distributed among Tiffany Davenport, Logan Abernathy and Zoie Reynolds. Davenport finished with 13 points. Abernathy and Reynolds each finished with five.
In addition, the Blue Tigers edged the Jaguars in foul shooting percentage – 66.7 percent to 63.2 percent. Lincoln Prep made six of nine attempts. South made 12 of 19 attempts.
And the Blue Tigers outrebounded the Jaguars 34-21. Mikayla Deshazar led Lincoln Prep with seven rebounds. Tauai led South with seven rebounds.
The way the Jaguars “won” the turnover category, as Oyler put it, was by committing 28 turnovers – eight more than the Blue Tigers.
Still, despite the differentials in turnovers and other categories, the Jaguars kept pace with the Blue Tigers into the third quarter. They led once during the first quarter and trailed 12-11 at quarter’s end. They also held brief second-quarter leads and trailed 27-24 at halftime.
“I think that, in the first half, we kind of stuck with it,” Tauai said. “They were doing a great job moving and they were hustling and making a lot of shots. We did a good job answering that and kind of sticking with them. And then the second half, we kind of just didn’t play our best and they did. They still shot (really well).”
Indeed, the Blue Tigers were 19 of 32 from the field (59.4) the second half, including 11 of 15 the third quarter (73.3 percent), when they outscored the Jaguars 23-14 to take a 50-38 lead into the final quarter. Lincoln Prep coach Jeff Atkins attributed the Blue Tigers’ third-quarter shooting percentage in partly their pressure defense.
“We got some easy baskets off some layups from steals from our defense,” Atkins said.
Lincoln Prep outscored South 21-13 to provide the Jaguars their final slices of humble pie – and cap what Tauai considered “a good tournament for us.”
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” Tauai said. “We have a lot to take (from this) into our remaining games for the season…. We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”