There is a lot of intrigue when it comes to tonight’s 6:30 p.m. Class 5 sectional playoff between Suburban Big Six rivals Blue Springs South and Lee’s Summit North.
Ninth-ranked Lee’s Summit North overcame an 11-0 first-quarter deficit against No. 4 state ranked Rockhurst – a team that owned two regular-season wins over the Broncos – to claim a 61-48 Class 5 District 13 title last Friday on its own court.
Blue Springs South, a team that dropped two regular-season games to coach Mike Hilbert’s Broncos, turned a close Class 5 District 14 title game against Raytown into a rout as they scored 30 fourth-quarter points in a 68-53 victory.
Now you have a team that has lost twice to the Broncos, facing a North team that overcame two regular-season losses to its last district opponent, squaring off in a sectional contest that has fans, players and coaches amped.
“Look at what North did against Rockhurst,” South senior guard Caleb Israelite said when asked about tonight’s game that will be broadcast on KCWJ (1030 AM). “They lost to Rockhurst twice in the regular season and beat them.
“That’s what we are hoping will happen when we play them at the (SEC) Arena. We have a lot of confidence going into the game, and some of that confidence comes from the Broncos, because we all saw what they did against Rockhurst.
“Just because you beat a team twice during the season doesn’t mean you are going to beat them three times. We play North twice every year because we are in the same conference. We know everything about them, and they know everything about us.”
That is a comment that is shared by South coach Josh Smith and the Broncos’ Hilbert.
“It all comes down to which team performs better on Wednesday night,” said Smith, the first-year head coach whose Jaguars are 18-8. “We have to play better than we did the last two times we faced them, and I think we will.
“We played an excellent game against Raytown – a lot of intensity and a strong fourth quarter. But North has such a potent offense with (Javaunte) Hawkins (averaging 26 points per game) and (Mikel) Henderson (15 points per game), we have to find a way to slow them down.
“They are so good, no one is going to stop them, but we have to slow them down and contain the other very good players on Coach Hilbert’s team.
“I have so much respect for Coach Hilbert, I know that we have to limit them to one shot, and we have to have a good offensive game.”
Hilbert brings his 24-3 squad to the SEC Arena in hopes of continuing its special season.
“Believe me, our guys are not going to be overconfident because we beat them two times this season,” Hilbert said. “We won by like five or six points and in one game, they had us down by 14.
“We have a ton of respect for Blue Springs South. And we have a team with 10 seniors that have a ton of respect for South, too.
“It should be a great game. They have so much talent, and we have a lot of talent, too – and just as important, players who know their roles and are comfortable with their roles.”
The Broncos, who won 81-71 on Jan. 8, won 79-68 the last time the two Suburban Big Six opponents met on Feb. 19, with the hot-shooting Hawkins scoring 31 and Henderson adding 20.
“Coming into this game, we knew we had to take our game to another level, and we did. And by we, I mean the entire team,” Hawkins said after the second regular-season win over the Jaguars. “South is so good with players like Jaylon (McDaniel) and Caleb (Israelite), and we needed a great game from everyone.”
Added Henderson: “All the guys played well, and Coach Hilbert does such a great job subbing off the bench, especially early in the game. He wants us fresh and ready to go in the second half and I think we kind of wore them down late in the game.”
While Israelite is the glue that bonds the South team, 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Jaylon McDaniel has turned into the player to watch. He scored 24 points with several highlight-reel dunks in the win over Raytown and had 23 points in the second loss to the Broncos.
“They’re going to be ready to play and we’re going to be ready to play,” McDaniel said. “Whoever plays best, makes the fewest mistakes, is going to win that game.”