The Lee’s Summit boys basketball team was milking the clock with just over a minute left in a 58-58 game with Blue Springs South.
Max Whisner held the ball near the half-court line with 13 seconds left, and that’s when Jaguar reserve guard Ovi Johnson made his move.
The South senior made an aggressive play and stripped the ball from Whisner and avoided a blocked shot and made a fast-break layup while getting fouled, sending the Jaguar crowd into a frenzy. He hit the ensuing free throw to put South up 61-58.
“I thought it was a foul for a minute because they were calling fouls all game,” Johnson said of his big play. “I just timed the steal and the rest is history.”
Lee’s Summit’s Landen Shepherd missed a half-court heave at the buzzer as the Jaguars improved to 2-0 overall with a win at home.
“That’s my boy, he gets after it on defense,” South senior guard Khayden Hooks said of Johnson. “I knew when he was guarding (Whisner) at the top, that he was going to get a steal. I wasn’t worried at all.
“He’s the best defender in our conference.”
Johnson was a spark plug off the bench with 15 points, with five of them coming in the final 2 minutes. Before his game-winning play, he made a driving up-and-under layup to tie it at 58.
“Ovi is a major spark for us,” South coach Josh Smith said. “He’s high energy and plays fearless on both sides of the court. That’s what I love about him.”
There were five lead changes in the fourth and Lee’s Summit appeared to have momentum swing its way when Amari Kemp converted a conventional 3-point play to make it 58-56. But Johnson made sure it didn’t stay that way.
Before Johnson’s heroics, Hooks helped keep his team afloat with a game-best 18 points, all coming on driving layups and free throws. The Tigers had a hard time keeping the quick senior in front of them.
“My teammates really help me because they are good shooters. (The Tigers) really can’t help off,” Hooks said.
He will be a big part of a revamped South team which saw star forward Jaylon McDaniel, who was a big part of the team last season, transfer to Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas. Smith had junior Devin Tomlinson step into McDaniel’s spot at the starting power forward position and he has filled in admirably.
“For someone who didn’t play a lot in the post (in the past), he defended well down there,” Smith said. “He fought his tail off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was our leading rebounder. He’s growing up this year.”
The Tigers and Jaguars traded the lead six times in the first period with Hooks converted on a 3-point play late in the first half to help South take a 16-15 lead going into the second.
The Jaguars led by as many as six points when Johnson hit a 3-pointer late in the first half to make it 34-28. Lee’s Summit cut the lead to 35-33 after a trey from Landen Shepard. However South senior center Cade Berg hit a pair of free throws to give South a 37-33 halftime lead.
The Tigers stormed back behind 10 second-chance points and outscored South 15-11 to take a 48-44 lead in the final period.
“I was frustrated because they got after us on the offensive glass,” Smith said. “There were too many times that those in Lee’s Summit jerseys coming up with the 50-50 balls.”
Both teams battle through a see-saw battle in the fourth, with the Jaguars winning out in the end thanks to Johnson, whose name was chanted by the student section after the contest.
Berg added eight points and Tomlinson had seven for South. Kemp led the Tigers with 14 points and Whisner chipped in with 13.
“We rebounded, played good defense and everyone scored,” Johnson said. “It felt good.”