When Lee’s Summit North center Aiyana Johnson picked up her second foul and spent much of the second quarter on the bench, Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli saw it as an opportunity for his Wildcats to dig out of a 16-7 hole they dug for themselves in the first period of Monday’s Suburban Big Seven matchup.
Tiana Gipson made sure that didn’t happen.
The senior guard sank three 3-pointers and helped the Broncos take a 28-17 lead into halftime of a 57-40 win at Blue Springs High School.
“That’s our team,” said Johnson, who finished with a “quiet” 20 points. “If one person isn’t playing well, someone else picks them up. That’s Coach (Tricia) Lillygren’s philosophy and we all believe it. Tiana had a great second quarter and I thought we played well the entire game, because Blue Springs is one of the most improved teams in the conference.”
The Wildcats started the season 0-6, and are now 9-12 and 6-5.
“North is a great team, and Tricia is a great coach,” Spigarelli said, “and Johnson, well, she had her typical quiet 20-point night. But (Gipson) came in and did a lot of damage that second period. With Johnson on the bench, we felt like we could make up some ground, but when she hit those three 3-pointers, it made it tough to come back.
“We’ve been playing so well, and tonight, I saw a lot of things I saw back when we were an 0-6 team. I wasn’t happy with our defensive play, we missed way too many shots – especially layups – and we gave them too many second shots.
“And you can’t do that against a talented team like North. But, it’s one game and we have to learn from it.”
Johnson had six first-quarter points to help the Broncos take that early 16-7 lead. When she got into foul trouble, Gipson started firing from long range.
“What I really like,” Gipson said, “is hitting the threes while Aiyana is playing – that opens up our inside/outside game. Tonight, I got hot at the right time and Aiyana came back in and dominated the second half.”
The 6-foot-3 Johnson, who has signed with Division I Stephen F. Austin University, scored 14 points in the second half as the Wildcats could never find a match for the one of the area’s premier post players.
“Tiana was really the only offense we had the second quarter, and we needed it with Aiyana on the bench,” Lillygren said after the Broncos improved to 15-5 and 9-1 to keep pace with first-place Lee’s Summit West in the Big Seven race. “When Aiyana got back in the game, she was great.
“She was 7 of 9 from the field and did have her typical quiet 20 points. She’s such a great kid and player.”
Gipson finished with 12 points and Anija Frazier added 10.
Aliyah Bello led the Wildcats with 15 points and Reggie Kanagawa added eight.