An up-and-down regular season ended on a high note for Blue Springs South first-year girls basketball coach Kory Lower and his three seniors.
Derrian Ford hit a key 3-pointer late in the game, Kaylee Connors added two clutch free throws and center Eden Tolliver battled a post player who towered over her throughout the night in a come-from-behind 58-51 Suburban Big Seven win over visiting Lee’s Summit.
The win gives Lower’s Jaguars a 10-15 overall record, 5-7 conference mark, ends a modest two-game losing streak and adds a bit of confidence as South enters Class 5 District 9 district play next week against crosstown rival Blue Springs.
“We’re undersized and really have only one senior – Kaylee Connors – who has any real varsity experience,” Lower said after the final game of the regular season. “I was so proud of all the girls tonight.
“Eden is my size (5-foot-7) and she has battled girls who are so much taller than she is – like tonight (Tigers center Brooke Benton is 6-2) – and she never complains or backs down.
“We wanted the ball in Kaylee’s hands at the end of the game and she made two big free throws, and this is Derrian’s first year starting on varsity and she had a big game tonight. I’m just happy for everyone, although games like this are going to give me some gray hair.”
With South leading 52-49 with 1:26 left, Lower urged his team to slow things down and run some time off the clock.
Ford didn’t get the message.
“I kind of get in a zone, and forget about the clock sometimes,” said a thankful Ford, who drained a key 3-pointer to give South a 55-49 lead. “When I shot it, and heard coach over on the bench, I thought, ‘I hope I make it.’ And I did. I was happy, but I was even happier when we won. Winning your last game at home as a senior is a memory you never forget.”
When asked about the 3-point basket, Lower just grinned and shook his head.
“We wanted to run time off the clock at that point of the game, and Derrian takes that shot and I’m like ‘No! No! No!’ And then it goes in the basket, and I’m like, ‘Nice shot Derrian.’”
The 1-23, 0-12 Tigers gave the Jaguars all they could handle much of the night. A 3-point basket by Kailee Liles gave Lee’s Summit a short-lived 41-40 lead early in the fourth quarter, but South responded with five straight points.
“We weren’t going to lose our final home game,” said Connors, who scored 13 points and hit those two free throws in the final minute to help seal the victory. “I’d missed an earlier one-and-one free throw, and I wasn’t going to miss those two. We’re so young, and even our seniors are inexperienced, so this is a big, big win and a great way to end the regular season.”
It was a big night for Lee’s Summit senior Claire Lock, who hit a layup at 2:20 of the third period to reach 1,000 points for her career as a Tiger.
The game was stopped and South PA announcer Dave Ceule announced the milestone accomplishment.
Lock, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter and 16 for the game, needed 13 points to reach 1,000 for her career.
“This has been a long, tough season, but I love my team and we never backed down or gave up,” said Lock, the younger sister of Drew Lock, now the starting quarterback at Missouri.
“There was a lot of stress getting to 1,000. Everyone kept asking me about it, and when I got that basket in the third period, it was like all the stress and pressure disappeared.”
After the game, she spent time with her family and longtime friend and opponent, Connors.
“I’ve known Claire forever,” Connors said. “We played soccer a long time ago and Claire’s mom was my preschool teacher, so we go a long way back.”
Logan Abernathy led the Jaguars with 16 points and Ford added 12.
“Logan was huge for us tonight – offensively and she got some big rebounds,” Lower said of the junior guard. “We have some good, young players who got a lot of experience this season.”
Lee’s Summit sophomore guard Mikaya House led all scorers with 18 points and Benton added eight.