A rough opening few minutes provided a big deficit for Blue Springs to overcome Thursday night.
A second rough patch to open the third quarter provided the Wildcats a deficit couldn't overcome, ultimately falling 84-74 to Fort Smith (Ark.) Northside in the opening round of the Blue Springs School District Tournament at Blue Springs High School.
The game was tied at 38 at the break between the Wildcats and Grizzlies, the defending Class 7A champions in Arkansas. At one point, the Wildcats (0-2) trailed 16-3 to Northside in the first quarter, but a feverish rally in the second quarter actually gave Blue Springs the lead.
Then, Isiah Joe got hot shooting and the Wildcats struggled to stop much on the defensive end.
“For about six minutes were were getting the loose balls, boxing out, the kids did a good job of getting to the shooter and they were only getting one shot and they were missing,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “Our kids were doing their part for a little bit and came out at halftime and went in the other direction with it.”
Northside (4-4) turned to Joe – an Arkansas signee – for the needed boost in the third quarter to pull away from the Wildcats.
Blue Springs tied the game at 41 on RJ Lawrence's 3-pointer and went up 44-43 on Braylon Culler's 3-pointer with 6 1/2 minutes left. Northside went up on a three-point play by Javion Releford, then Joe caught fire, scoring eight straight, making it 54-44.
Joe had 13 points in the first half and nearly matched that in the third quarter with 12 points. He finished with a game-high 37 – and it could've been 39 had he not been stuffed by the rim on a dunk attempt in the final seconds.
Once up by a point in the third, Blue Springs trailed 67-51 going into the fourth quarter. The Wildcats had only two field goals the final 6 minutes of the third.
“We spent our energy for half of a quarter and it got us back in the game and then we get complacent and it goes back to where we were,” Jones said. “We didn't defend well and these teams are too good. If you don't defend, you won't win many games. Hopefully, we learned that tonight.
“Effort plays weren't on our side tonight. We’ve got to get better. We need to open our eyes. We need to be better collectively, as a group, or it will get ugly real fast.”
The key to the Blue Springs rally in the first half was the play of Daniel Parker Jr. and Lawrence.
Parker, in his first game since returning from football, finished finished with 23 points, 18 of them coming in the first half – all in the second quarter. Lawrence had 10 in the first quarter – despite not starting – and finished with a team-high 26.