Blue Springs South sophomore phenom Jaylon McDaniel gets a lot of attention.
The skilled 6-foot-6 forward often throws down highlight reel dunks and college recruiting sites have him ranked high in the 2021 class.
But there’s another solid big man on the Jaguars who has been a big part of the Jaguars’ success, head coach Josh Smith said. And he showed why Friday.
While McDaniel was on the bench in foul trouble for most of the game, junior forward Cade Berg stepped up.
Berg scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and swiped four steals in a 59-42 win over Raymore-Peculiar in Suburban Big Six action. Berg also was tasked with guarding the 6-foot-7 forward junior forward Kian Scroggins, who had a game-high 21 points.
“I felt like Cade has been the unsung hero of our team,” Smith said. “He’s shown a lot of leadership, and he’s been a consistent and steady performer. He doesn’t get noticed as much as the other guys because he isn’t throwing down the highlight-reel dunks and he’s not always scoring a high point total. But in terms of the total package, as far as everything that needs to be done on the court, Cade Berg has been outstanding all season long.”
Scroggins did most of his damage in the first quarter with 10 points, but Berg helped keep him in check the rest of the way.
“He’s a great, strong player,” Berg said of Scroggins. “I just knew I needed to step up, box out and keep him off the boards.”
Added junior guard Khayden Hooks: “We needed that since Jaylon was in foul trouble. Cade stepped up to the challenge.”
Berg was part of a strong defensive effort for South in the second half as it held Ray-Pec to 19 points. The Panthers led 13-12 after one period, but the Jaguars (8-5, 2-1) answered to take a 24-23 lead after junior guard Ovi Johnson hit a pair of free throws and nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner late in the second period.
After the Panthers committed just five turnovers in the first half, the Jaguars turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and helped force 14 Ray-Pec turnovers.
The Jaguars notched eight fast-break points in the third quarter and opened up a double-digit lead when Devin Tomlinson sank a three after point guard Caleb Israelite drove to the point and dished out a perfect kick-out pass. Hooks was a big part of the Jaguars’ transition game as he poured in eight of his team-high 14 points in the period, helping his team go into the fourth up 48-35.
“The other team likes to play slow, so we had to pick it up on defense,” Hooks said. “We had to get easy buckets on offense.”
The Panthers didn’t get any closer than 11 points the rest of the way. South began the fourth on a 11-4 spurt capped by Hooks’ fast-break layup to make it 59-39, sealing the win.
“We talked about it at halftime I thought we could amp up or pressure on the ball,” Smith said. “We tried to deny the wings and create offense with our defense. We have to play against Ray-Pec’s set defense in the half-court. That’s what they pride themselves on.
“They are difficult to break down. I felt like creating some havoc with our defense would work to our benefit.”
McDaniel finished with 13 points for the Jaguars despite his foul trouble.