Josh Smith didn’t waste any time. Thirty seconds into a lifeless first quarter Monday, the Blue Springs South coach huddled his players for a quick timeout.
Sluggish starts have been the Jaguars’ bane so far this basketball season, and he didn’t want to see another one.
“The way we started I was obviously concerned about that,” Smith said. “But we had some guys who answered the call and changed the energy level on the floor.”
The change didn’t occur right away for South against St. Joseph Central in the Nelson Division consolation final of the William Jewell Holiday Classic. But after slogging through the first quarter, South woke up in the second period and took control for a 66-56 victory at the Mabee Center in Liberty.
South (5-5) made only 3 of 11 shots (including 0 of 6 from three) and 1 of 6 free throws as the Jaguars sleep-walked through the first quarter. Central (3-5), meanwhile, raced out to a 12-4 lead and went into the second quarter up 14-7.
“We didn’t start the game very well at all,” Smith said. “I didn’t like what I saw and unfortunately it didn’t change immediately. But after a couple of minutes we woke up and played with a lot more energy.”
Did Smith read the riot act to the Jaguars during that timeout? Not really, senior guard Khayden Hooks said. Just a friendly and emphatic reminder to zero in and focus.
“We just came out slow,” Hooks said. “He can kind of tell when we’re playing sluggish so he tried to get it out of our heads quickly.”
Hooks, who led South with 18 points, picked up the pace in the second quarter, as did fellow guard Johnny George. George, who had 14 points, made a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal as the Jaguars opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run for a 17-14 lead they would never relinquish.
Central closed within 23-21 by halftime, but South responded with a 19-5 run opening the third quarter, with most of the baskets coming off eight Central turnovers. Hooks scored nine points during the run, and South had a seemingly comfortable 47-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But Central, which got 27 points from A.J. Redmond, did manage to close within nine after being down as many as 18 in the fourth quarter.
“The only issue is (South’s energy) came in spurts or short stretches,” Smith said. “There were times I thought we were really good on both ends of the floor and then we had our moments when we were sluggish on both ends of the court. The challenge is to get to the point where we are playing more consistently.”
South is getting closer to that point, and going 2-1 in the 40th edition of the Holiday Classic helped. While the Jaguars didn’t come to take fifth place, they were able to shake off some of the doldrums from a five-game losing streak.
“We got our confidence back,” Hooks said. “I think it was good we came here and went 2-1.”