• Cats advance despite frustrating effort

  • Blue Springs girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli gave his team three objectives for Wednesday’s Class 5 Sectional game against St. Teresa’s Academy.

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  • Blue Springs girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli gave his team three objectives for Wednesday’s Class 5 Sectional game against St. Teresa’s Academy.
    Spigarelli told the Class 5 No. 4-ranked Wildcats that it would be imperative to keep the Stars off the offensive boards, keep them out of the paint and guard the perimeter. In Wednesday’s first half, Spigarelli said he thought Blue Springs failed at all three.
    Fortunately for the Wildcats, they held St. Teresa’s to three points in the third period on the way to a 56-42 victory at the Independence Events Center.
    Spigarelli had plenty to critique, but he pointed out that there was one major plus to take away.
    “The positive is we’re still playing,” said Spigarelli, whose team advanced to the Class 5 quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season and will meet 25-2 Kearney, A 42-32 winner over North Kansas City, at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at the Independence Events Center for the chance to go to its fifth straight state semifinal.
    They came out firing in the opening two minutes as seniors Karyla Middlebrook and Lizzy Wendell drained a pair of 3-pointers to put Blue Springs (27-2) up 6-0. But less than a minute later, Wendell picked up her second foul and went to the bench. Spigarelli said he thought that play changed the complexion of the rest of the half.
    “I think she’s too smart and too good of a player to pick up that kind of foul,” Spigarelli said.
    Blue Springs managed to push its lead to 17-10 at the end of the first quarter without Wendell, but the Stars (11-15) connected on 4 of 9 3-point tries to keep the first half competitive. After St. Teresa’s closed within 19-16, a pair of treys from Tara Sheehy helped the Wildcats go back up 27-19 before taking a 29-25 advantage into halftime.
    In the first minute of the third, sophomore Morgan McMahan drew a charge to set the tone for a physical quarter, in which Blue Springs held the Stars scoreless until the 2:20 mark and extended its lead to 34-19.
    “We just did a couple things that put us in a hole in the first half that we fixed in the second half,” said McMahan, who finished with six points, eight rebounds and a block. “That’s always what you want.”
    McMahan and Tyra Bickham’s performances were two of the only positives Spigarelli highlighted postgame. With Wendell (10 points) and Middlebrook (16 points on 4-of-12 shooting) struggling for much of the night, Bickham totaled nine points on just four shot attempts, pulled down six boards and swiped four steals.
    “We prepared with the postseason coming up for teams being all over Karyla and Lizzy,” Bickham said. “I thought our other players, even the ones coming of the bench, stepped up and hit shots.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Aliyah Lee added five points, five rebounds and a pair of steals off the bench and Wendell finished with six rebounds. Grace Kitts paced St. Teresa’s with 14 points.
    Moving forward, Spigarelli said the collective focus of his squad will need to improve dramatically if it is to make a fifth consecutive trip to the final four. That, he said, is something his players will have to handle personally.
    “There’s not a lot to address,” Spigarelli said. “Either they’re going to do it or they’re not at this point in time.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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