Blue Springs South senior Ethan Swanegan hoped that Friday night’s 64-61 loss to Liberty at William Jewell College taught South’s young players the importance of playing hard until the final buzzer.
“It’s a long game,” said Swanegan, who paced the Jaguars with 20 points. “It’s 32 minutes, so … there are going to be multiple sways in the game and multiple kinds of runs. So we just must take advantage of the runs we have and keep playing defense.”
South’s Cardinal Division semifinal loss in the 38th annual High School Holiday Classic, however, lasted 36 minutes, rather than 32. Liberty overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and took the Jaguars to overtime.
During the second and third quarters, however, Liberty threatened to end it in 32 minutes. Leading 16-14 after one quarter, the Blue Jays pushed to margin to seven three times during the second quarter. They led 29-22 at halftime. Jalen Lewis’ 3-point bucket less than a minute into the third quarter made it 32-22 Liberty.
But then, the Jaguars answered with a 9-1 run to cut Liberty’s lead to 33-31. They trailed 42-38 entering the fourth quarter.
During the final minute of the third quarter, Swanegan put in a 2-pointer and a 3-pointer to spark a 15-0 run that was capped by Jared Ravencamp’s two free throws with 5:47 left in regulation.
“We sat down and defended our tails off. We probably had a stretch of about 5 minutes where we defended as well as we’ve defended all season,” South boys basketball coach Jimmy Cain said. “And then, our pace of play on offense changed because of our defensive intensity in that stretch ... I think that kind of changed the game for us.”
Liberty answered with a 9-1 run to go up 51-50. Swanegan’s two foul shots with 3:35 remaining gave the Jaguars their final lead, 53-51. Travis Turner’s 2-pointer with 3:14 left knotted it at 53 and helped force overtime.
“What I told them in the locker room was, tough teams can have the lead, go down six or seven and then come back, force overtime,” Liberty coach Roger Stirtz said. “And I liked our chances in overtime because of the toughness of our group.”
Liberty edged South 11-8 during overtime. Brock Matson sparked Liberty by scoring eight of his game-best 21 points during overtime – all on free throws. Matson finished 9-for-9 from the line.
“Brock is just so steady. Everyone in the gym knows he’s going to make them – including himself,” Stirtz said.
Matson’s two foul shots with 5.6 seconds left provided Liberty’s final points. Jack Gillig’s buzzer-beating trey finished the scoring for the Jaguars (4-3), who’ll play Raytown for third place at 10 a.m. today at William Jewell College.
“It’s going to be a great, great learning experience,” Swanegan said. “It’s another one of those games where we take a tough loss tonight, but we get to wake up in the morning and come right back and strap them up again and get back out there.”