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Examiner
  • Bill Althaus: Cats make 'Drive for Five' dream come true

  • The “Drive for Five,” a quest that motivated the Blue Springs High School girls basketball team throughout the 2012-13 season, is now a reality.

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  • The “Drive for Five,” a quest that motivated the Blue Springs High School girls basketball team throughout the 2012-13 season, is now a reality.
    Despite losing standout, after standout, after standout to graduation the past four years, coach Mark Spigarelli’s 28-2 Wildcats are going to the Class 5 final four this weekend for a big-class girls record fifth time in a row.
    “No one thought we’d make it this year,” said senior forward Lizzy Wendell, who scored a game-high 17 points in the Wildcats’ 49-37 quarterfinal win over Kearney Saturday night at the Independence Events Center. “Well, no one but us. Everyone said this is the year to beat Blue Springs, and we wanted to prove them wrong.”
    Mission accomplished.
    When 2011-12 Examiner Player of the Year Tyonna Snow (who now stars for Missouri State) graduated last year, many so-called experts predicted a down year for Spigarelli’s team.
    “The girls played with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders,” said Spigarelli, whose team takes a 21-game winning streak into the 8:20 p.m. Friday semifinal game against Columbia Rock Bridge. “People ask me how I motivate a team that had been to four straight final fours and I tell them that this team didn’t need any motivation.”
    Wendell, who has signed to play basketball at Drake University, got off to a slow start against the Bulldogs, missing her first six shots.
    “I wasn’t hitting anything, but Coach told me to keep shooting – so I did,” she said.
    She sank her only two field goals – including a key 3-pointer – in the second quarter and played a big role in a 13-2 run that gave the Wildcats a 25-17 halftime lead. With less than a second to play in the second quarter, she was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws.
    “What really got us going was Aliyah (Lee) coming off the bench and hitting all those 3s,” Wendell said. “We were so excited for her.”
    Lee, a sophomore who transferred to Blue Springs from Oak Park before the start of the school year, hit two quick 3-pointers and created a buzz that energized the entire team.
    “A lot of fans have said the girls were like robots this year, that they didn’t show any emotion,” Spigarelli said. “Well, they showed some emotion Saturday. That smile on Aliyah’s face when she hit the 3-pointers and Lizzy fist pumping after her first 3 – that’s emotion.
    “This team is used to a lot of success, but they still get emotional in the big games.”
    Now seniors Wendell and Tyra Bickham will join Snow as the only players in the history of Blue Springs High School to appear in four straight final fours. Tara Sheehy dressed for the final four games as a freshman but did not play and Karyla Middlebrook practiced with the team but did not play because she had transferred from another school.
    Page 2 of 2 - Now that the “Drive for Five” has become reality, this group of Wildcats has a new goal – winning their first state championship.
    They have finished second each of the four years they have made the trip to Columbia.
    “Our goal every year was to win it,” Wendell said. “I’ve shared a lot of great times with my best friends on this team. To win a state championship with them would be the best way to end my high school career.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
     
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