There was one constant on this night of inconsistency, drama and nail-biting excitement at Blue Springs South High School.
Coach Kory Lower’s Jaguars scored 24 points in the fourth quarter – two more than the scored in the rest of the game – to claim a 46-41 Suburban Big Six win over Raymore-Peculiar.
The one constant?
The support the Jaguars received from their bench – led by senior Aniah Banful, who was as supportive and animated when her team was down by 12 in the fourth quarter as she was when Jaidynn Mason picked a Panthers’ pocket, was fouled and hit two free throws to give South its first lead of the night at 33-32 with 4:47 left.
“I put a camera on the other side of the gym to just video our bench, because I believe it is so important to have support off our bench,” Lower said after the Jaguars improved to 3-0 in conference action and 12-1 overall. “I can’t wait to see that video because Aniah and the other girls on the bench were going crazy tonight throughout the game, offering support and encouragement on a night we needed it.
“Do you know we scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and just 22 the rest of the game? We weren’t playing that badly, we just couldn’t get a shot to fall. Then, when our shots finally started going down in the fourth quarter we were able to make a comeback.
“You need wins like this during the season. Ray-Pec had a lot to do with how poorly we shot the ball, but our kids never gave up.”
The last time the two conference opponents played, South won 71-40 in the season opener.
“It was a lot different tonight, wasn’t it?” asked Lauren Gillig, who scored eight of her 13 points in that dramatic fourth-quarter run. “We really started playing better and we can thank the girls on our bench for that. They supported us all night and we really appreciated their support.”
Mason nodded in agreement.
“We struggled in the first half – I struggled in the first half – and my teammates kept me going and kept encouraging us and that was so important,” said Mason, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “We had to work hard to get this win, and we got the job done.”
One dramatic play summed up South’s comeback when guard Tiyani Rollins batted the ball to backcourt mate Hannah Smith, who threaded the needle with a pinpoint pass to Gillig, who finished with a layup and a 43-39 lead with 50 seconds left.
“That was a sweet play,” Gillig said.
When Banful, who played sparingly in the win, was told about the comments Lower and her teammates made about her support, tears came to her eyes.
“I love my girls, my team, so much,” Banful added. “Did you notice when I got in the game how much the girls all supported me and encouraged me? That’s what I love about this team, we’re not really a team, we’re a family. And watching my girls come back and win this game was such a big thrill.
“I’ll never forget it.”
Samantha Hellums scored 17 points to pace Ray-Pec.