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Examiner
  • Wildcats take title, make point

  • Minutes before his Blue Springs High School girls basketball team entered the Blue Valley North gymnasium for the championship game of the 33rd annual KA-MO Classic, coach Mark Spigarelli offered a bit of inspiration.

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  • Minutes before his Blue Springs High School girls basketball team entered the Blue Valley North gymnasium for the championship game of the 33rd annual KA-MO Classic, coach Mark Spigarelli offered a bit of inspiration.
    “I just told the girls to remember that we were playing the team that seeded us fourth in this tournament,” Spigarelli said with a gleam in his eye.
    His Class 5 No. 4-ranked Wildcats responded with an 8-2 run to start the game and managed to hang on for a physical 57-48 victory over the Mustangs, who are Kansas’ fourth-ranked 6A squad, that allowed every member of the Wildcats to play a role in the dramatic victory.
    “What can I say?” asked Spigarelli, who was on the officials from the opening whistle. “Lizzy (Wendell) was Lizzy, our guards were just outstanding, we got some big points in the paint and everyone who came off the bench contributed to this win.
    “This is pretty special. We were seeded fourth and we beat the top two teams in Kansas (Aquinas in the semis and Blue Valley North in the title game). I’m very proud of this group.”
    Morgan McMahan scored just two points in the game, but it was the game’s first basket.
    “When Morgan scored that early, it opened things up from the outside for me and Lizzy,” said guard Karyla Middlebrook, who joined Wendell on the all-tournament team.
    “We were able to score inside and outside. We had a lot of motivation tonight because we didn’t get much respect with that fourth-place seed. I think we showed everyone who the best team in the tournament was.”
    The Wildcats (13-2), who have appeared in four consecutive final fours on the Missouri side, won their third consecutive KA-MO title.
    “We really wanted to win this game,” said Wendell, the tournament MVP who scored a game-high 21 points and set the stage for toughness under the basket when she grabbed three consecutive offensive boards in the second period before scoring on a layup in traffic.
    “Lizzy showed a real toughness tonight,” Spigarelli said. “So did Karyla and Tyra (Bickham) and everyone, for that matter. We got a big lift when Tyra came back into the game (in the fourth quarter) after she got her fourth foul.
    “And look at what Aliyah Lee did in the fourth period – getting that steal, hitting the layup and getting a free throw. That got the lead back to 10 points.
    “Morgan Hensley, a freshman, comes off the bench and gives us some big minutes when Tyra was on the bench and Madison Sykes, another freshman, hits a couple of big free throws late when Karyla fouled out.
    “This is one of those wins you can build on for the rest of the season.”
    Page 2 of 2 - North was the 11th team the Wildcats have played this season that has appeared in a state poll. Blue Springs has gone 8-1 against teams that are currently ranked.
    “Our schedule has been brutal, just brutal,” Spigarelli said, “and the girls have really responded. We addressed the fact that they beat Aquinas, the top team in the state, in the semis.
    “We didn’t want them to be satisfied with that win. And they weren’t. They took it to (North) in the opening period and stood to everything they threw at us.”
    Middlebrook finished with nine points and Bickham added eight.
     
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