It took plenty of moxie and toughness for Blue Springs to make it to two overtimes Thursday. The Wildcats just didn’t have enough to win.
Let that be a lesson, Blue Springs coach Adams Jones said, for what kind of toughness the young Wildcats will need the next time they face a team as rugged as Ruskin, which held off the Wildcats 69-64 in double overtime in the opening round of the Patterson Division of the William Jewell Holiday Classic. While the Wildcats had big moments – and big baskets – they still lacked some fight down the stretch.
“They got physical on us,” Jones said. “I told our guys we’ve got to be tougher mentally, because that’s what teams are probably going to do to us more and more.”
Ruskin (5-2) hit Blue Springs with a frenetic offense and a transition-fueling defense. Tavion Banks, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, muscled his way to 24 points and nine rebounds. Tyrone Moore, a 5-10 senior guard, slashed his way to 22 points.
Blue Springs (5-3) countered with a 20-point effort from Braden Appelhans, 15 from Kyle Bruce and 14 from Ikenna Ezeogu. Bruce and Ezeogu would have the Wildcats’ two biggest baskets.
After a back-and-fourth quarter that saw two ties and three lead changes, a baseline drive by Banks put Ruskin up 53-51 with 50 seconds left. When Banks missed a dunk in the final seconds, Blue Springs got the ball down court in time for a Ezeogu putback with 10 seconds left that sent the game to overtime.
Ruskin led the first overtime 60-58 after Banks made one of two free throws with 12.4 seconds left. Mike Harrison missed a three-pointer in the closing seconds, but Bruce tipped in the rebound falling to the floor as the buzzer sounded.
“I just saw it (Harrison’s shot) was going far left,” Bruce said. “I just had to tip it back in to get us to another overtime.”
Blue Springs ran out of gas in the second overtime. After Ruskin took a 64-62 lead, Blue Springs missed 10 of its last 11 shots as the Eagles pulled away.
“They kept fighting,” Jones said. “There was some grit to get ourselves in those positions, but there were a lot of possessions throughout that ballgame where we just kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Such as the end of the second quarter, when Blue Springs had a 23-15 lead until lettining Ruskin score right before the half. Or the end of the third quarter, when a 36-32 Wildcat lead evaporated after Ruskin went on a 7-0 run in transition.
The loss dropped Blue Springs into the consolation round and a game against Truman at noon Friday. It was the matchup most expected, but not at the time predicted. Truman fell to Grandview Christian 61-59 overtime before the Wildcats’ loss.
“Both of those teams that played before us were good ballclubs,” Jones said. “We’re going to get up early and come up here again tomorrow.”