The No. 1-seeded Blue Springs South girls basketball team used a strong defensive effort and some timely free throws to get past Grain Valley 39-29 Tuesday night in Class 5 District 14 semifinal action at Truman High School.
Coach Kory Lower’s Jaguars will meet the host Patriots in the title game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We just talked in the locker room, about how we were able to withstand every one of their charges,” Lower said, referring to the Eagles cutting the deficit to one point on three different occasions in the second half.
“We knew they’d be a tough opponent because they are well coached and have a lot of talent. They really took us out of our offensive game plan in the second period – and they made that charge in the third period. But I am so proud of how our girls responded. We’re the No. 1 seed in a talented district and I thought our girls played like the top seed tonight.”
South jumped out to an 11-4 lead after one period, but Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said his team never thought about pushing the panic button.
“The panic button was right there for everyone to see,” said Draper, whose 11-15 Eagles were the No. 5 seed. “It was bright red, but no one pushed it. South has a lot of talent and did some good things that first period, and we just couldn’t get our shots to fall.
“They got some big shots inside, and we switched some things up defensively and did everything we could to take those easy shots away.”
Lower said the Eagles’ 1-3-1 zone defense created problems, but his team regrouped and found success from outside.
When Brittney McKay hit two free throws at 1:25 of the third period to cut the deficit to 24-23, South’s Lea Stanton and Sophia Lopez hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Jaguars some breathing room.
Senior guard Logan Abernathy then hit five consecutive fourth-quarter free throws to help South maintain its lead and momentum.
“Our 3-pointers in the third quarter were really big,” said Abernathy, who finished with seven points – all coming from the free throw line. “I work at my free throws. I work at my free throws all the time – and tonight, all that work paid off.
“I’m a senior, and we have other seniors on this team, and no one wanted this to be our last game. Now, we have the chance to win a district championship and we’re so excited for Saturday. We can’t wait.”
Freshman guard Saneea Bevley led the Jaguars with 10 points. Sophomore guard Sydney Williams came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 10 points.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve never written a goodbye speech for our last game,” Draper said as teary-eyed players emerged from the locker room. “We have some special players on this team – some who will be back, and some who we have to say goodbye to tonight.
“And that’s tough. But I love the kids on this team, and they gave it everything they had all season long.”