Jaylon McDaniel isn’t going to wow the crowd every time Blue Springs South takes the court. As he proved Friday night, he doesn’t have to.
McDaniel, South’s 6-foot-6 sophomore forward, has made a name for himself this season with dominant play under the basket and highlight-reel dunks. He didn’t put on a show when the Jaguars played host to Blue Springs, but his 17 points proved plenty enough in a balanced attack that gave the Jaguars a wire-to-wire 73-61 victory in a Suburban Big Six contest.
McDaniel’s mostly unflashy but hard-earned points were plenty enough with three other Jaguars finishing in double figures. Point guard Caleb Israelite also had 17 points, fellow guard Khayden Hooks tallied 14 and forward Cade Berg pumped in 12. All those points proved handy as Blue Springs double- and triple-teamed McDaniel with big bodies.
“There was a little bit of pressure, because they were double-teaming me and I couldn’t get the looks I wanted,” McDaniel said. “But we shared the ball, and we were patient.”
That patience is what South coach Josh Smith has liked about the Jaguars this season. While it’s nice to have a dominant player like McDaniel, it’s good to know he doesn’t have to fill that role every night.
“We’re a pretty well balanced team,” Smith said. “Do we have guys that are capable of putting up a big individual number? Yeah. But I think we are at our best when the scoring is balanced, and we’ve got multiple guys contributing.”
South (14-6, 4-1 Big Six) took control early with a 16-3 run to open the game. Israelite hit two three-pointers during the run and set up a McDaniel basket on the baseline.
Blue Springs (6-14, 2-4) pulled back to 21-13 at the end of the first quarter, but South scored the first six points of the second quarter and never let the lead fall below double digits going into a 41-29 halftime advantage, even with McDaniel managing just four free throws in the second quarter.
South pushed its lead to 50-35 before Blue Springs made things interesting with a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter. Guard Jay’Von McKinney and reserve forward Najee Williams, who helped 6-foot-7 forward Eli Wingert in guarding McDaniel, drove inside for baskets during the run, which also included a three from Kyle Bruce.
Williams, who scored 10 points off the bench, drove the lane for the final basket of the run that pulled Blue Springs within 50-45 with three minutes left in the quarter.
“We started slacking off,” McDaniel said. “We didn’t have any energy and we weren’t talking as much. They had too many looks at the basket.”
South closed the quarter with an 8-2 run upped its lead to 58-47, and Blue Springs whittled it back to 59-53 early in the fourth quarter. But turnovers, a frequent problem for the Wildcats, kept Blue Springs from getting any closer.
Blue Springs coughed the ball up on their next four possessions and the Jaguars pulled away for a 66-55 lead, with McDaniel capping the run with a transition dunk, one of his two slams for the game.
“We’ve struggled with turnovers all year,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “We only had eight in the game, but I think four of those eight were in that run.”
Cooper Willich led Blue Springs with 12 points and was the only other Wildcat in double figures.