Blue Springs basketball coach Adam Jones challenged his Wildcats basketball team at halftime Friday night at jam-packed Lee’s Summit North High School.
The challenge paid off as Daniel Parker scored 25 of his game-high 33 points in the second half – including a 6-of-6 showing at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter – and Lawrence added 13 of his 15 points and they both did all the little things that help teams break losing streaks.
The end result was a white-knuckle 68-65 victory over Suburban Big Seven rival Lee’s Summit North to end a four-game losing streak and help the Wildcats improve to 5-7 overall and 1-3 in the conference.
“Coach told us we needed to get tougher the second half,” sophomore point guard Cooper Willich said. “We’re all tired of losing, and Coach really challenged us.”
Jones’ players not only listened, they responded.
“I was so proud of the way Daniel and R.J. and all the guys responded,” added Willich, who directed the Wildcats’ offense while coming up with a huge steal late in the game. “Daniel was sick, and I think he played his best game of the season.”
Parker and Lawrence, who became the first Wildcats teammates to surpass 1,000 career points in the same season, did it all for their team the second half.
The 6-foot-3 Parker hit all six of his free throws in the closing minutes while battling Broncos 6-8 forward Elijah Farr in the paint most of the night.
But the play that had everyone was buzzing came when both Parker and Lawrence dove near the baseline to save a ball from going out of bounds, while batting it to Willich.
“All the guys saw that play,” Willich said, “and if Daniel, who was so sick, and R.J. go diving after loose balls, we’re all going to go dive after loose balls. That was the biggest play of the game.”
“Daniel and R.J. are big-time scorers, but they played such complete games tonight – doing things away from the ball, helping us run our offense at the end – running some time off the clock, things like that,” Jones said.
“Everyone jumped up off the bench when they both dove for that loose ball. And Cooper was tough tonight. This is the type of effort you need to put an end to a losing streak like the one we were on. That losing thing got old, and the guys were so tough and played such a good game tonight. I’m proud of all of them.”
Parker was the last Wildcat to leave the locker room, and he looked like he’d just been run over by a semi but managed to force a smile.
“My mom didn’t want me to come to school today,” he said, as he warned family, friends and fans to stay away because of his flu-like symptoms, “but I told her if I missed school, I don’t play. And I wasn’t going to miss this game tonight.”
When asked about the diving play late in the game, a big smile appeared on his face.
“R.J. and I have a lot of eyes and ears on us, and if we make a play like that, people pay attention,” said Parker, who finished with 12 points in the fourth quarter, along with eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks on the night.
“I felt good going after that ball. It was a big game. And Cooper, man, he had a great game. He had that one turnover, but it didn’t affect him at all.”
With the Wildcats holding a four-point lead in the closing minutes, Willich let go with a pass under the basket that dribbled out of bounds.
“When that happened,” Lawrence said, “I told Coop, ‘Man, you’re going to win this game for us, don’t let that get you down.’ And what’s my man do? He goes down and steals the ball on their next possession. That was one of the biggest plays of the game. The kid is tough. Tonight, we were all tough.”
The Wildcats could not enjoy the win until the final buzzer sounded as North’s Javaunte Hawkins hit a long 3-pointer with six seconds left in the game to make it 66-63, but Lawrence was fouled and hit both free throws to pad the Blue Springs lead to 68-63.
North’s Christian Carter hit a long basket at the buzzer to account for the final 68-65 score.
Logan Jenkins, who hit six 3-pointers, led the 5-6, 1-3 Broncos with 22 points, followed by Farr with 20 and Hawkins with 19.
LEE’S SUMMIT NORTH GIRLS 53, BLUE SPRINGS 37: Lee’s Summit North’s Tiana Gipson scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Broncos past the Wildcats in the first game of the girls-boys doubleheader.
North led 23-22 at the half, but used a 21-5 third-quarter advantage to blow the game open. North improved to 7-3 and 4-3 with the win while the Wildcats fell to 3-9 and 2-3.
Jayla Sample led Blue Springs with 15 points. Aiyana Johnson added 16 for the Broncos.