After a night of inelegant basketball, Blue Springs girls coach Mark Spigarelli still found some positives.
Spigarelli found that the Wildcats can out-tough another team even with a sputtering offense. And they can still play tough even with their best player off the floor.
Blue Springs accomplished all this in a 39-24 victory over crosstown rival Blue Springs South Tuesday night in the Wildcats’ gym. Blue Springs (16-5, 4-3 Suburban Big Six) led wire-to-wire, but it took a lot of fight for them to do so.
"There’s several of them hurting a little bit today," Spigarelli said.
Probably none more so than Jada Williams. Blue Springs’ 5-foot-7 freshman sensation came up limping after a collision with a South player in the second quarter, and was writhing in pain on the floor after a loose ball scramble in the third. She was escorted off the floor into the training room.
"It really hurts," Williams said. "But I don’t take no days off. We’ve only got a couple of games left in the season before our state run, so I’ve got to play through it."
Blue Springs led 24-13 when Williams went out with 4:48 left in the third quarter. When she returned with 2:39 to go, the Wildcats were up 28-16 and had led by as many as 15 without her.
"I was concerned how the others were going to react to that and I thought they did a really good job," Spigarelli said. "We widened the lead after she went down, so I thought our kids did a good job handling some adversity."
There was plenty of adversity to go around on a night when neither team could get into an offensive flow. South (16-4, 4-2) struggled the most. Hounded by Blue Springs’ quickness and lane-clogging defense, the Jaguars shot 7 of 41 from the field, committed 17 turnovers and managed only one point in the first quarter. Jaidynn Mason, South’s leading scorer at 14.6 points a game, didn’t score a point.
"I think we were scared of them and couldn’t handle their pressure," South coach Kory Lower said. "We only had two baskets at halftime and it wasn’t because we couldn’t make a shot, I think it was because we couldn’t run offense to even get a shot. We either turned it over or forced something horrible because we were scared of their pressure."
Blue Springs never trailed after going up 11-1 by the end of the first quarter, but the Wildcats didn’t have it easy either. South played tough defense, too, and Williams, who normally scores 17.8 points a game, fought hard to get 11.
"It was a battle out there every time we stepped between the lines," Williams said. "I just had to play through my pain because my girls had my back."
South tried to make a game of it in the second quarter and almost did while holding Blue Springs to one basket over three minutes. The Jaguars crept within 13-9 midway through the period, but Blue Springs pulled away and went up 20-11 on a 3-pointer from Ja’Cole Johnson just before halftime. South would never pull closer.
"Our defense was outstanding," Spigarelli said. "Our offensive execution wasn’t real good tonight, but our great defense bailed us out on that tonight."
Good enough to let Blue Springs, ranked No. 7 in Class 5, gut out a big win and complete a season sweep of the No. 10 Jaguars. And show just how tough they can be.
"We’ve been talking about not being a soft team," Williams said. "We’ve been talking about mental toughness and we definitely showed it tonight."