When foul trouble put Devin Tomlinson on the bench Tuesday night, Blue Springs South wasn’t the same. He came back just in time to right the ship.
With Tomlinson on the floor, South aggressively attacked Lee’s Summit North’s zone defense with pinpoint passing and patient cuts. But he picked up his third foul midway through the third quarter, and the Broncos started creeping back into the game.
Then Tomlinson returned early in the fourth quarter, and he provided the swagger and big plays down the stretch the Jaguars needed to hold on for a 70-63 Suburban Big Six victory at South.
Tomlinson, a 6-foot-5 junior junior forward, didn’t have the most points for South, and he certainly wasn’t the only reason the Jaguars (6-5, 2-0 Big Six) picked up their third straight win. But he often stands tall for the Jaguars, and they needed him to against the Broncos.
“Devin is critically important for a lot of reasons,” South coach Josh Smith said. “He’s got a real passion for the game. You can see watching him play he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”
South missed his passion, shot-making and rebounding ability as Lee’s Summit North (3-8, 1-1) battled back from 13 points down to make it a one-point game twice in the fourth quarter. North was within 59-58 when Tomlinson returned with about 4 minutes left to play. He promptly scored an inside basket and fed Johnny George for another as the Jaguars opened a 64-58 lead.
“I like to contribute the best I can, even if I’m in or out,” said Tomlinson.
And when Lee’s Summit North closed within 64-63 on Jeremy Moore’s basket with 22.6 seconds left, Tomlinson helped shut the door. After George made two free throws, he forced a steal and drew a foul that produced two more. He iced the game with two more free throws after making another backcourt steal with 1.5 seconds left.
“We try really hard to make our free throws,” said Tomlinson, who finished with 13 points. “This is a game where we made them and it really helped us stretch out lead and helped us get a victory at the end of the day.”
South never trailed after a 23-20 first quarter that saw five ties and three lead changes. The Jaguars made eight of their first 14 shots as they patiently worked around North 2-3 zone defense.
The hot shooting continued in the second quarter, when Cade Berg capped a 10-3 run with a slam off a lob that put South up 33-25 and on its way to a 42-29 lead late in the quarter.
“They passed it better than any team has passed against our zone,” Lee’s Summit North coach Mike Hilbert said. “And that’s a huge credit to their players and coaching staff being prepared to attack us.”
North switched to a 3-2 zone after halftime that helped the Broncos battle back. So did the outside shooting of senior guard Hayden Cole, who buried six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 24 points. North was back within 55-50 at the end of the third quarter as the Jaguars struggled and Tomlinson sat.
“I feel like there were some times where we had control of the game and we had possession of the basketball, and instead of continuing to be strong with the ball and patient, we got stationary and impatient,” Smith said. “And we tried to force the action and make plays that weren’t there.”
George came off the bench to lead a balanced scoring effort for South with 16 points. Berg and Khayden Hooks both finished with 12.