• Confident Buccero comes off bench to ignite Jaguars past Wildcats

  • Nick Buccero certainly doesn’t lack confidence.

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  • Nick Buccero certainly doesn’t lack confidence.
    The Blue Springs South senior long-range specialist came off the bench in Friday night’s game against rival Blue Springs and not only scored 18 points to lead the Jaguars to a 74-65 Suburban Big Six Conference win, but took over the fourth quarter while playing with a swagger that worked South’s home crowd into a frenzy.
    After knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and scoring nine first-half points, Buccero gave the Class 5 No. 2-ranked Jags (19-2, 6-0 conference) another jolt in the fourth quarter. With 5:50 left, the Wildcats built a 56-51 lead after Justin Pruitt’s bucket, but then Kevin Puryear scored five straight points and Buccero drained a 3-pointer to give the Jags a 59-56 lead. Over the next two minutes, Buccero grabbed a defensive rebound, an offensive board and set up a Justin Pitts’ layup with an assist to put South up 61-58.
    Then, with just more than a minute left, Buccero made the play of the night and possibly his career.
    With South nursing a 64-62 lead, Buccero took a pass on the left wing and took aim from five feet behind the arc.
    The shot all but finalized the Jags’ seventh consecutive win over Blue Springs and sparked chants of, “Nick Buccero! Nick Buccero!” from the South student section.
    “I didn’t think I was going to miss it,” said Buccero, who knocked down four treys and went 6 of 6 at the free-throw line. “I don’t know, it felt pretty good. It was one of those no-no-no-yes type shots.”
    South coach Jimmy Cain admitted that it was the kind of shot that a lot of coaches probably cringe when they see. He, however, had no qualms.
    “It’s one of those deals where I think he knows if it doesn’t go in everyone’s going to say that’s not a very good shot,” Cain said. “I trust all of our players, especially our seniors, to make decisions on the floor and they made big plays when it counted.”
    Buccero finished off the Cats (12-9, 2-4), but it was Puryear, a sophomore, that brought South back in it. With Blue Springs charging during the third quarter, outscoring the Jags 23-17, Puryear scored eight points. He notched 17 points in the second half and finished with a team-high 19 points and six rebounds.
    Senior Kris Butts came off the bench to score nine points while classmate Andrew Wright also finished with nine and fellow seniors Pitts and Carl Martin added seven each.
    “We had some guys that struggled tonight,” Cain said. “But part of having a team is picking teammates up that struggle and I felt like that’s what we did.”
    The Blue Springs players exited their locker room with their heads down and eyes glossy, but coach Adam Jones was brimming after the effort they produced. Especially considering he watched his guys fold in a similar environment in a 74-58 home loss to South two weeks ago.
    Page 2 of 2 - “These guys told me about being a basketball coach tonight,” Jones said. “They reminded us why we do this job. These guys are frustrated right now because we feel we should be at that level and they feel like they’ve earned that.”
    Blue Springs battled back from a 31-25 halftime deficit as senior Jay Corwin poured in 13 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter. Corwin scored eight consecutive points for the Cats at one point in the period and splashed three of his five 3-pointers.
    “When Jay gets going, the key is to make sure he gets his shot,” Jones said. “Because if he gets his shot up, good things are going to happen.”
    Pruitt and Walter Sorrells added 11 points apiece off the bench for Blue Springs while Elijah Lee finished with nine points and five rebounds.
    But after starting the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run to take a 56-51 lead, the Cats were outscored 23-9 and 15-5 over the last three minutes.
    “It was a battle the whole game,” Buccero said. “They came out playing really well and played well with us the whole game. They’re a good team. ... You’ve just got to find a way to win in games like this.”

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