Six weeks, and 31 practice sessions into the 2017-18 basketball season, coach Jimmy Cain’s Blue Springs South Jaguars finally played their first game.
And it was impressive.
Jack Gillig, a senior who was making his first varsity start, and freshman Jaylon McDaniel – the first freshman in Jaguars history to start a varsity contest – led the Jaguars to an easier-than-expected 76-47 victory over Lincoln Prep Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the Blue Springs School District Basketball Tournament.
“I don’t know how ready we are,” quipped Cain before the start of the game, “but I know we’re excited. Thirty one practices are a lot. The guys are ready to face someone in a different colored jersey.”
The rout started early as guard D.J. Hyde picked Jontell Washington’s pocket and raced the length of the court to hit a layup at 2:09 of the first quarter to give his Jaguars their first double-digit lead, 17-6.
The Jaguars led 25-14 after one period and 47-26 at the half as Gillig connected on three of his game-high six 3-pointers in the second quarter.
“I felt good shooting the ball tonight,” said Gillig, who finished with a career-high 20 points, “but all that matters to me is winning. We had so many practices, I think we had 31, and we were ready to play, excited about playing tonight.
“And it was a big team win. Everyone who played contributed. And I thought Jaylon was just amazing out there. I’m a senior, and this is the first varsity game I ever started, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a freshman and start for the varsity team.”
The confident freshman took his first start in stride.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said the 15-year-old, 6-foot-6 forward, who finished with eight points. “I did all right for my first game. I could have done better, especially offensively, but I’ll take it – especially the win.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to play this game and we came out and played strong the whole game.”
The Jaguars finished with 12 3-pointers in just over three quarters as Cain emptied his bench in the fourth of a game that featured a mercy rule clock for most of the final period.
“We shot the ball well,” Cain said. “I think we’re going to be able to score some points. But there are a lot of defensive things we need to clean up. And we will.”
When asked about the play of Gillig and McDaniel, the veteran coach grinned from ear to ear.
“Jack is one of those kids a lot of people are going to look in their program and say, ‘Who is that kid?’ He’s been patient, he did his time on the bench, got some playing time last season when we had big leads and came out tonight and hit six 3-pointers,” Cain said. “I’m proud of him. And Jaylon is the first freshman to ever start a varsity game (at South), and when you look at some of the players we’ve had in our program, that’s saying something.”
Three who come to mind are the University of Missouri’s Kevin Puryear, Northwest Missouri State Division II national champion Justin Pitts and Nebraska-Omaha’s K.J. Robinson.
Chris Walker finished with 14 and Jared Ravencamp added 10 for the Jaguars. Arthur Harris Jr. led the Tigers with 18.
South will play the winner of the St. Louis University High-Wooddale game at 8:30 tonight in one semifinal game.