• Wildcats begin drive for five

  • The drive for five begins at 4 p.m. this afternoon at Blue Springs High School.

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  • The drive for five begins at 4 p.m. this afternoon at Blue Springs High School.
    Coach Mark Spigarelli’s Blue Springs girls basketball team begins its postseason quest to reach the Class 5 final four in Columbia for a fifth consecutive season.
    The 24-2 Wildcats meet a Lee’s Summit team they have routed twice in Suburban Big Six play in a Class 5 District 14 game that was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday afternoon.
    The snow forced all the area district games to be moved back two days, which Spigarelli and his players say posed no problems or distractions.
    “I didn’t pay any attention to the snow and all that stuff,” Wildcats senior guard Tyra Bickham said. “I’m just focused on practice and playing. We know that when we play, we better be ready. We’ve had a great season, but it all starts over in districts, and we better be focused and ready.”
    Tara Sheehy, Bickham’s senior backcourt mate, agrees.
    “There are a lot of expectations when you play for Blue Springs, but everyone said this was going to be a down year because of all the girls who graduated,” Sheehy said. “We didn’t need any extra motivation, but that served as extra motivation and we’ve played hard this season.
    “We’re focused and we’re ready. We’re playing a day later than we were originally supposed to play, and that’s all right with us. Just tell us when we’re playing and we’ll be there and we’ll be ready.”
    Early in the season, critics who said it might be a down year for the fourth-ranked Wildcats appeared to know what they were talking about as Blue Springs suffered losses to Columbia Rock Bridge and St. Joseph’s’ Academy.
    Since then, the Wildcats have won 17 in a row, including a 10-0 conference mark, and seem determined to prove their detractors wrong.
    “I was talking to (assistant coach Jeff) Hardin and we both agreed that Tyra and Tara were the two most focused players at practice on Monday,” Spigarelli said. “We have four great senior leaders. In 20 years, I’ve never had that type of senior leadership. That’s a big reason we have been so successful this season.”
    Joining Bickham and Sheehy are scoring leader Lizzy Wendell, who will play at Drake, and Texas Tech-bound guard Karyla Middlebrook.
    “Those four girls lead by example, but they lead in different ways,” Spigarelli said. “Tara is so focused, her eyes are wide open and she’s going after it 100 percent all the time. Tyra takes the positive approach, always encouraging her teammates. Lizzy has become a more vocal leader who’s not afraid to get on her teammates and Karyla is the quiet leader who leads by example.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I know the girls didn’t like all that talk about this being a down year, and they went out and did something about it. This has been a special season and now, we’re at the best part of the season.
    “You don’t need to do anything to motivate our team now. It’s district time, and that’s all the motivation they need.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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