Everything changed for Blue Springs when push came to shove Friday night.
Mike Harrison provided the shove when he plowed into Truman’s Macio Moananu as he tried to score on a breakaway late in the third quarter. The pushing followed, as did a couple of technical fouls.
Blue Springs was down double digits at the time and had been for a while. But not much longer. The Wildcats pushed back, clawed back and overpowered Truman in the fourth quarter for a 60-54 victory in a Class 5 District 14 boys basketball semifinal at Raytown High School.
Blue Springs (15-10) trailed 43-31 and had been down 14 when tempers started to flare. Harrison picked up the foul while Wildcats teammate Kyle Bruce and Truman’s Sam Billimon both received technical fouls after the jawing.
"That could have gone one of two ways after that happened," Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. "I was proud of the way our guys handled themselves. I wasn’t happy that whole thing went down, but I was pleased our guys got themselves collected and stayed in the ballgame."
Blue Springs took control in the fourth quarter, and the Wildcats did it behind sophomore forward Ikenna Ezeogu, who scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the period. The 6-foot-5 sophomore forward powered his way to two and-ones during a 9-2 run, the second one cutting Truman’s lead to 48-47. Back-to-back baskets from sophomore Braden Appelhans put the Wildcats up 51-50 with 1:39 left, their first lead since early in the second quarter.
"We’re a really close group," Ezeogu said. "When something little happens we get fired up. We all got fired up after that little incident that we had."
Truman (16-10) quickly regained the lead with a Moananu basket, but the Patriots wouldn’t score again until the final seconds. Ezeogu put Blue Springs up for good with a putback that led to another and-one with 40 seconds left and added two free throws after getting fouled blocking a shot.
Blue Springs shot 7 of 7 from the line down the stretch to cap its comeback and leave Truman coach Rod Briggs mystified by how things went so wrong after the third-quarter shove.
"We didn’t handle that very well, and you’d think it would have fired us up," Briggs said. "But for some reason, we didn’t handle that situation very well and I don’t know why. But give Blue Springs credit – they dug deep and made plays."
Blue Springs couldn’t make a basket in the second quarter while the Patriots’ Kaiman Lennox couldn’t miss. Lennox scored nine of his 18 points in the second period, including a turnaround 3-pointer at the buzzer that put the Patriots up 27-18.
Truman built its lead behind Billimon, who scored the Patriots’ first nine points of the second half. Billimon scored all 12 of his points in the period as the Patriots pushed their lead to 36-22 early in the period.
Soon the Wildcats would push back, and push themselves into a meeting with Blue Springs South at 7 p.m. Saturday for the district title.
"We’re a tough group, man," Ezeogu said. "We’ve been doing this all year. We’ve been ready for this moment."