Three Blue Springs South seniors – Kaylee Connors, Eden Tolliver and Derrian Ford – have either come off the bench during varsity games or have played at the junior varsity level for some or the majority of their high school careers.
For the 2017-18 season, the seniors now have their chance to shine for the girls basketball team.
All three started and contributed to a 44-28 victory against Suburban Big Seven for Raymore-Peculiar Monday at home.
Connors, who is the unquestioned leader of the Jaguars (5-5, 2-1 league), showed why she’s been a defensive stalwart for her entire career. She held one of the Panthers’ best players – Cassie Kruse – scoreless. She also scored a team-high 13 points in the win.
“Kaylee is by far our leader of the group, she is the only one with (a significant amount of) varsity experience,” South coach Kory Lower said. “She played varsity before because of her defense. She runs with that and she loves the challenge of guarding the best player on the other team.”
Her backcourt mate, Derrian Ford, finally got her shot to start for the varsity squad this season. She hasn’t disappointed as she is the team’s leading scorer. Against the Panthers, Ford scored 11 points, had three assists and two steals.
“She has gotten so much better,” Lower said. “She had an ACL injury her sophomore year, which set her back a little bit, but last year you could see it toward the end of the year, that she was starting to put it together.”
Then there is Tolliver, who occasionally got to play last season for varsity, is the only starting forward on a team that’s loaded with guards. She is the team’s high-energy player who grabs rebounds and makes the hustle plays. She grabbed three rebounds and had a steal against Ray-Pec.
“Eden is a bruiser,” Lower said. “She 100 percent knows her role and accepts her role. In high school, everyone wants to be the hero and shoot 100 shots. She just knows her role – to defend and rebound.”
For all three of them, it was a Senior Night to remember.
“I think it was a little emotional,” Connors said. “It was a little bittersweet. It’s nice to get a nice win tonight, getting a conference win at home.”
South was never really in danger of losing the game. The Jaguars built a 14-7 lead in the first quarter and expanded their lead to 31-14 at halftime. In a season where they struggled on offense, the Jaguars looked like a well-oiled machine in the first half, shooting 12 of 24 from the field.
“We shot well from the corner and reversed it well,” Ford said.
Added Connors: “We were on tonight. We played together as a team and worked as one unit.” Our guard did a great job pressuring the ball, so it made it hard for them to get it in the post.”
Ray-Pec never got any closer than 15 points in the second half, as the Jaguars were unfazed by Ray-Pec’s size advantage. The Jaguars usually have four guards and one forward on the floor at all times and that type of lineup ended up serving them well Monday.
“We did pretty well against their zone,” Lower said. “We struggled with that a little bit this year. When we see a zone, we become a robot and just stand there. But we moved the ball around today and knocked down some shots. This is one of the better games we played.
“We are pretty much all guards. I don’t even put heights down on the roster, and someone asked me, ‘Is that just because not let them know how tall they are?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, I will tell everyone, ‘We’re all little. We’re all pretty much the same size.”
Logan Abernathy added nine points for South.