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Examiner
  • Cats keep stranglehold on district title

  • For much of the first half of Friday night’s Class 5 District 14 girls championship, it looked like Blue Springs South might put a scare into four-time reigning champ Blue Springs.

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  • For much of the first half of Friday night’s Class 5 District 14 girls championship, it looked like Blue Springs South might put a scare into four-time reigning champ Blue Springs.
    But the Class 5 No. 4-ranked Wildcats forced a flurry of turnovers late in the second quarter to regain momentum before halftime and propel them to a 53-41 victory at Blue Springs High School.
    The Jaguars contained Blue Springs stars Lizzy Wendell and Karyla Middlebrook for much of the first half and built a 20-15 lead with 2:11 left in the second period. Then Middlebrook knocked down a pair of baskets, Tyra Bickham and Wendell swiped a pair of steals and converted layups and Middlebrook scored off another South turnover in the closing seconds to give Blue Springs a 25-20 advantage at intermission.
    “It was big just to give us that boost of confidence,” said Middlebrook, who scored a game-high 16 points to go with four rebounds. “We just weren’t playing with it until then. That was really big to just reassure that this is our game.”
    The Wildcats (26-2) extended their lead to 29-20 in the opening minutes of the third before the Jaguars steadied, pulling within 31-28 before Blue Springs ripped off a 15-2 run that carried over into the fourth.
    While contributors like Wendell, Middlebrook and Bickham have garnered plenty of big-game reps over the last four years, it was a first-year Wildcat that came up with two of the biggest shots as sophomore Aliyah Lee drilled a pair of 3-pointers to close the third one of which she just got off before the third-period buzzer.
    “She’s had two great playoff games,” said Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli, whose team clinched its fifth consecutive district title. “She had 17 the other night to lead us in scoring (in a 44-27 win over Lee’s Summit), and she was big tonight again both defensively and shooting the 3.”
    Wendell finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four steals and Bickham tallied 10 points and five boards.
    Like Spigarelli, South coach Brad Oyler pinpointed the final two minutes of the first half as a crucial turning point in the contest, but he also noted it was a positive sign that the stretch didn’t totally KO his young squad that will graduate just two seniors (Bri Neal and Amber Reynolds) in the offseason.
    “I am proud of the girls,” Oyler said. “I told them at halftime, that’s just a little over a minute and a half of the game. That’s one stretch of the game right there. So we’ve got to forget about it, and for the most part we did a good job of coming back and battling. That’s showing that we’re maturing.”
    Sophomore Cloe Lane paced the Jags (12-13) with 15 points and six rebounds and junior Remy Davenport added 14 points.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Wildcats, who are looking to make their fifth straight trip to the state final four, will face St. Teresa’s Academy in the Class 5 sectional at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Independence Events Center.
    “We’ve been there,” Middlebrook said. “We’ve been in bigger games and if we panic, we know what will happen. That experience just helps us stay calm and some teams just don’t have that.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC
     

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