Blue Springs South had one advantage when it faced Park Hill South in the semifinals of the Winnetonka Girls Basketball Invitational – the Jaguars had played a game.
The Panthers, the No. 6-ranked team in Class 5 according to the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, got to the semifinals Thursday in the Gold Division by virtue of a forfeit win against Kansas City Northeast.
The first-game jitters showed and meant for a close game, but in the end the state-ranked Panthers pulled away for a 53-39 victory.
“We told the kids after the game, they (Park Hill South) are a talented team, there is a reason they open as one of the favorites in Kansas City,” Blue Springs South coach Kory Lower said. “I would say we competed. We just didn't execute well at times. Their speed sped us up a little bit. I remember looking up one time and we were down at least 14 points. I think we competed, but we’ve just got to clean some things up.”
The loss drops the Jaguars to the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. tonight against Lee's Summit North.
In a unique scheduling twist, after that game, Blue Springs South will play its home opener on Monday against Park Hill South, which plays Raymore-Peculiar in the championship game.
The Jaguars (1-1) hung around early, forging a 7-7 tie on Sophie Lopez' 3-pointer and trimmed a deficit to 12-10 on a trey by freshman Seneea Bevley, who finished with a team-high 10 points.
Park Hill South closed on a 6-0 run and led 18-10 at the opening eight minutes.
The lead grew to 11 points for the Panthers, but a buzzer-beating shot by Blue Springs South's Lea Stanton ended the first half and cut the deficit to 30-24.
The game ultimately turned in favor of the Panthers in the third quarter, but not before the Jaguars took advantage of another sluggish start.
Park Hill South didn't score a basket for the first three-plus minutes of the frame, hitting only one free throw, and a 4-0 run by Lauren Gillig pulled the Jaguars within 31-28 with 4:29 to play.
DeQuaria Guillory sank a 3-pointer on the next possession to extend the Panthers' lead. Hannah Smith scored to make it 34-30, but a double dribble, offensive foul and turnover on the next three possessions for the Jaguars turned into a 9-0 run for the Panthers.
Once down a bucket, the deficit grew to 43-30 and the Jaguars never recovered.
“They can do that,” Park Hill South coach Josh Dorr of his team's spurt. “Luckily, we have the talent to do that from time to time.”
Freshman Jaidynn Mason scored 20 points in her first game for the Panthers. Division I recruit Alecia Westbrook (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) was limited to four points thanks to the defense of Gillig and Elizabeth Ernsting.
Blue Springs South was down 14 going into the fourth and cut it down to seven, but never got any closer. Logan Abernathy scored seven of her nine points in the fourth, before fouling out.
“The first and third quarter we really struggled with turnovers,” Lower said. “We didn't give ourselves an opportunity when we didn't even attempt a shot.”