A trap game? It’s possible Blue Springs was looking ahead to its big regular-season finale, but not likely.
Did Rockhurst trap the Wildcats? Absolutely.
Running its trapping, double-teaming defense to perfection, Rockhurst turned a tight game into a laugher in the second half and crushed the Wildcats 74-52 Wednesday night at Rockhurst.
Blue Springs (14-9) won’t have long to dwell on this one, not with a showdown Friday night at Raymore-Peculiar for a share of the Suburban Big Six title. Rockhurst (13-11) is still Rockhurst, but this game didn’t have nearly as much on the line.
“That’s not a distraction, that’s not an excuse,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “This is Rockhurst. It’s a rivalry game. The guys were ready to play.”
Blue Springs didn’t look ready for Rockhurst’s trapping defense, which constantly pressured and double-teamed whoever had the ball in the backcourt. That defense led to 16 Blue Springs turnovers, five of which came when the Hawklets took control in the third quarter.
Until then Blue Springs had stayed in the game, trailing 13-12 after the first quarter and 28-27 at halftime after four ties and three lead changes.
Blue Springs never regained the lead, but the Wildcats were within 35-33 when Hawklets guard Mason Thompson turned two straight backcourt steals into a basket and a free throw. Ben Walsh, who led all scorers with 25 points, got one basket off a steal and added a layup off another turnover as Rockhurst pulled ahead 46-38 by the end of the period.
“We got out of control and just turned the ball over,” Blue Springs guard Cooper Willich said. “We didn’t execute throughout the game. It definitely sped us up.”
Added Jones: “Those turnovers turn into points on the other end. They’ve got shooters who were getting open looks and we didn’t get to them. It wasn’t a real good effort on either end tonight.”
Rockhurst made eight 3-pointers, five of them by Walsh, who wasn’t in the starting lineup. The Hawklets did a lot of damage at the free-throw line, going 23 of 25 from the stripe while the Wildcats were 12 of 20.
Rockhurst was 13 of 14 from the line and made three 3-pointers during a 28-point fourth quarter and led by 20 midway through the period.
“Everything that (Rockhurst coach Pete Campbell) did took us out of what we wanted to do,” Jones said. “And that’s what good teams will do.”
That included getting looks inside to leading scorers Ikenna Ezeogu and Braden Appelhans, who struggled to score 13 and 11 points, respectively. Mike Harrison also had 13 points for the Wildcats.
Jones hopes his team can shake this one off quickly. If the Wildcats beat Ray-Pec on Friday, they’ll win a share of the Big Six title before beginning district play next week.
Blue Springs, seeded third, meets No. 2 Truman March 6 in the semifinals of the Class 5 District 14 tournament at Raytown High School.
“We’re going to get past this game, throw it behind us and go out and play our best ball on Friday,” Willich said. “Hopefully that will lead us into districts.”