Beaten, bruised and a little battered, the Blue Springs South girls basketball team was in need of a breather.
The Jaguars certainly got one Monday afternoon.
There's usually not much for a team like South to gain from a lop-sided victory like the 79-12 trouncing over Harmon in the opening round of the North Kansas City Invitational. But with some players nursing injuries, and the sting of last Thursday’s loss to crosstown rival Blue Springs still fresh, the Jaguars didn’t mind the mismatch.
“It gave some girls some confidence, which some of them needed,” South coach Kory Lower said. “And it gave some girls who don’t get to play a ton some opportunities to go out there and show what they’re capable of, which I think in the long run should help our team.”
South (14-2) played without starting center Elizabeth Ernsting, who was nursing knee injury from the loss to Blue Springs. Lower said the 6-foot-1 senior could have played, but the knee was swollen and had kept her out of practice. Another player was unavailable after missing practice for a softball event. And junior guard Hannah Smith, normally the first Jaguar off the bench, started despite being under the weather.
“It was an interesting game with our substitutions and who was going where,” Lower said. “It was a little different.”
South big guns Lauren Gillig and Jaidynn Mason didn’t seem worse for the wear, even though they also enjoyed the break. Gillig, a 6-1 senior forward, scored a game-high 24 points before exiting in the third quarter. Mason, the 5-6 sophomore guard and Park Hill South transfer, had 17 in three quarter’s work.
“It helps raise our confidence to get a win like this,” Gillig said. “Going into this tournament we have a mindset of we want to go get another championship and we didn’t let up.”
South didn’t let up even after burying Harmon (5-7) 25-0 in the first quarter. The Hawks from Kansas City, Kansas, committed 12 of their 34 turnovers in the first period, mostly on steals Mason turned into points. She had 10 points in the first period; Gillig pumped in nine on 4-of-6 shooting.
The second quarter was more of the same as South built a 50-4 halftime lead. The Jaguars led 69-10 before a running-clock fourth quarter.
“I thought we did some really good things,” Lower said. “My challenge to them was to stay disciplined and be who we are and not start gambling and cheating on plays. I think that’s easier said than done, but I think they did a pretty good job.”
South, ranked No. 7 in Class 5, advanced to an 8 p.m. Thursday semifinal game against Lincoln Prep. The seventh-ranked team in Class 4, Lincoln Prep beat host Northtown, the defending Class 5 state champion, 48-42 in the first round.
The Jaguars know breaktime will soon be over.
“We have a pretty tough schedule coming up with this tournament and conference,” Gillig said. “We can use this to give us some momentum and push us through February.”