Thursday’s matchup with St. Teresa’s Academy was a frustrating one for Blue Springs girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli and his Wildcats.
Many of his rotational players were in foul trouble throughout as the officials called fouls frequently. Luckily for the veteran coach, he had a 10-player rotation to work with. The Wildcats used those 10 different players and eight of them scored in a 61-47 non-conference victory at home.
Blue Springs (5-4) committed 31 fouls and the Stars got to shoot 34 free throws. But after a sluggish start, the Wildcats hit their stride in the second half.
“We had our hands on them while guarding them, then we had to adjust and give them a little more space,” Blue Springs junior guard Jayla Sample said. “We had to move our feet more.”
Added freshman point guard Ja’Cole Johnson: “We couldn’t let the refs get in our head.”
And they didn’t.
After trailing 28-25 at halftime, Blue Springs outscored St. Teresa’s 36-19 in the second half. Sample led the effort with a game-high 16 points as she scored in a variety of ways. Freshman guard Ja’Cole Johnson, was adept at finding driving lanes and fitting through tight spaces as she chipped in with 15 points, most of them coming on the dribble drive.
“I always do that every game,” Johnson said of using the Eurostep.
Spigarelli was impressed with his freshman’s performance.
“She had her best game,” he said. “She made good decisions and took the ball to the basket. She did a lot of good things.”
Blue Springs led 6-2 early in the first quarter but 3-pointers from St. Teresa’s Clare Herrington and Demi Spani sparked a 15-4 run that helped the Stars taking a 17-10 first-quarter lead.
Sample’s seven-point second quarter helped Blue Springs cut the Stars’ lead to 28-25 at halftime.
In the third period, Johnson took over when the starters were on the bench for most of it. She weaved between two St. Teresa’s defenders for a layup to cut the lead to 28-27. Two free throws from junior forward Katy Knudsen and a conventional three-point play from Sample helped Blue Springs capture a 32-28 lead.
Johnson later made a coast-to-coast layup and drained a 3-pointer to cap her seven-point third, helping the Wildcats take a 41-34 advantage into the fourth.
Johnson hit a pair of driving layups after the Stars cut the lead to four. Her last one put the Wildcats up 45-39. Blue Springs hit 9 of its last 11 free throws to put the game away as they survived the foul-laden contest.
“We contained them and fouled less,” Sample said of the turnaround in the second half. “And we made free throws and were driving more. We had control of the ball more, too.”
Added Spigarelli: “When you can’t get into a flow, it’s not a fun game to watch. It was a frustrating game to play in and definitely to coach in. But we did a great job stepping up in the second half. We played better defense. (The Stars) didn’t get as many good looks in the second half.”
Freshman Symiah Bradley added nine points and 10 rebounds, Knudsen finished with eight points and Aliyah Bello chipped in with seven for Blue Springs.