There’s something new at Blue Springs South High School.
A new coaching staff and a new-look girls basketball team, that by its own admission is a work in progress.
But one thing remains the same – coach Kory Lower’s young Jaguars never quit hustling and playing hard Monday night in a 62-52 non-conference loss to visiting Park Hill South.
“We have a new head coach, new assistant coaches, only two girls with much varsity experience and a lot of junior varsity players who are learning what the varsity game is like,” said senior guard Kaylee Connors, who along with junior Logan Abernathy are the lone South players with much varsity experience.
“We’re going to be a work in progress, but that’s not a bad thing. We’re 0-2, but we’ve been in each of our games and have been competitive. We have girls playing with no varsity experience, and it’s going to take them a while to get used to a faster-paced game.
“But I really like the way Coach Lower and his staff work with the team and we’re going to get better. I know we are.”
Kory Lower is the son of longtime Blue Springs assistant girls basketball coach Roger Lower, who was a softball icon for the Wildcats for many years. Kory’s brother Kurt is an assistant coach and his dad, brother Kyle and mom Karen were in the stands at Blue Springs South High School.
“My immediate family, and a lot of friends, grandmas and grandpas and a lot of relatives were here tonight, which is really special,” Kory said, as many of his relatives posed for a family photo in front of the scorer’s table.
“My roommate from college, who is now a police officer in St. Louis told me if I ever became a head coach, he’d come to my first game, and he was there at our first game at Belton,” Kory said. “Those are the things you remember long after you’ve forgotten the score of a game.
“And that’s what I told the girls tonight. They worked so hard, and gave it everything they had. I was proud of them. We’re just a small, inexperienced team that is really going to have to learn to play hard and play great defense because we’re so small.”
Park Hill South’s Alecia Westbrook, a 6-foot-1 forward, towered over the Jaguars and led all scorers with 24 points.
“We did a nice job of holding her down for a while, but when you don’t even have a starter over 5-10, it’s tough,” Kory said. “We had too many fouls – 24 of their 62 points came at the line – and way too many turnovers. We can’t do that against good teams like Park Hill South.”
The Panthers scored 13 points in the first quarter and 10 came off Jaguar turnovers. The Jaguars finished with 28 turnovers.
“The Jaguars used an 11-2 run at the start of the second quarter to grab a 28-15 lead at the 5:50 mark. But the Panthers clawed their way back thanks to a 16-3 run that helped the visitors go into halftime tied at 31.
“We haven’t played in two weeks and you could tell, especially early in the game,” Park Hill South coach Josh Dorr said after his team improved to 2-0. “We got into a little offensive rhythm in the second half and shot really well at the free throw line.”
Abernathy led the Jaguars with 13 points and Cooper added 10.
“We just want to get better each game,” Cooper said as she left the court, “and I know we can do that. We’re never going to quit working hard – for Coach Lower and each other.”