Blue Springs South will get a chance to see how much it has improved over the past few weeks Friday night.
The Jaguars reached the championship game in the Patterson Division of the William Jewell High School Holiday Classic with a 68-60 victory over Liberty Thursday.
Next up for Blue Springs South, winners of three in a row, is rematch with Park Hill South in the title game at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at the Mabee Center.
The Class 5, No. 3 state-ranked Panthers beat Blue Springs South on Dec. 11, 86-58. Since then, the Jaguars haven't lost, while Park Hill South are 2-2 in its past four games.
“We aren’t satisfied, we want to do everything we can to win another,” Blue Springs South coach Josh Smith said of reaching the title game. “We played them once already and they put it to us. They came to our home court and put it on us. Credit to them, but I didn’t think we did the things we need to do to be successful. If we do that tomorrow night, we can give ourselves a chance.”
Jaylon McDaniel, who scored a game-high 20 points while added seven rebounds, is well aware of how good the Panthers are. He played AAU ball with Park Hill South's Lamel Robinson – a Nebraska-Omaha signee – and Desi Williams.
Smith called the guard duo, who combined for 41 in the first matchup, “lights out.”
McDaniel, along with teammates Caleb Israelite and Khayden Hooks played a key part in the Jaguars (6-3) reaching the finals.
The Jaguars held a 14-12 lead after the first quarter, but surged ahead at the halftime behind 11 points from Hooks in the second quarter. The Jaguars led 33-29 at the break, but the difference in the outcome came in the third quarter.
Blue Springs South's offense doubled the output of the Blue Jays – 20-10 – riding the hot hand of McDaniel, who accounted for eight of his 20 in the third. Hooks added two threes in the frame as well, making a two-possession game into a double-digit lead going into the fourth.
“We picked up our defensive and our energy,” McDaniel said. “We had to have that intensity.”
Smith added: “We seized control (in the third) and total credit to the guys. I felt we allowed them to get on the offensive glass in the second quarter and gave them a number of second-chance points. I think they had nine offensive rebounds and they got big offensive guys, but we talked if we can limit that second-chance points, we could get out and run and do what we do best.”
Liberty (4-5) scored nine of the first 13 points in the third to cut the deficit down to single digits, but the margin never got lower than seven.
Israelite then helped seal the win by hitting eight straight free throws, finishing 9-for-10 at the line and scoring 18 points. Hooks tallied 17 points. McDaniel's made 10 of 15 shots from the field.