With the district title on the line, a senior and a freshman rode to the rescue of the Blue Springs High School girls basketball team.
With 7 minutes and 2 seconds left in a defensive-minded nail-biter at the Class 5 District 15 championship game at Raytown High School Saturday afternoon, Blue Springs senior Aliyah Bello and freshman Kayleigh Jenkins combined for 10 points in a row to lead the Wildcats to a 45-36 victory over Truman.
Jenkins hit a short jump shot to give the Wildcats a 29-28 lead with 7:02 remaining.
“I don’t feel like the freshman on this team, my teammates make me feel like a member of the team and I was comfortable taking that jump shot,” said Jenkins, who scored four of her six points in the fourth quarter. “I’m real comfortable shooting that jumper. That’s where I scored all my points today.”
Then Bello, a senior leader both on and off the court, followed Jenkins’ second jumper with six consecutive points, all coming in the paint.
“I played like it would have been my last game, and I didn’t want to play my last game today,” said Bello, who led the Wildcats with 12 points. “It was such a tough, defensive game and we kind of broke it open in the fourth quarter.
“Kayleigh got us going with those two shots and I just took what the defense gave me. This was a complete team win and I am so proud of my girls.”
The Wildcats will now play Suburban Big Six rival Lee’s Summit West in a Class 5 sectional playoff at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“We played them twice in the regular season and they beat us both times, so we know we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Bello said. “But if we play defense like we did today I think we can beat just about anyone.”
Truman led 10-8 after one period and 19-18 at halftime.
“When you play a team coached by Steve Cassity you better be ready for anything,” Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli said. “He’s as good as any coach in the state and he had his team fired up and they really shut us down until late in the game. Kayleigh hit two big jumpers and Aliyah did what Aliyah has done for us so many times over the past few years.
“She is a senior and she might have played her best game today. I know it was her best defensive game and she scored those late baskets when we needed them.”
Cassity, who often played four freshmen with senior guard Deon Monroe – who was held to just six points because of the defensive presence of Bello – was proud of his young squad’s effort.
“Spig and his kids played a great game,” Cassity said. “We knew we had to keep it low scoring, and we did, but we didn’t keep it quite low scoring enough. Our young kids got some valuable experience tonight and that will pay benefits down the road.”
Three freshmen led the Patriots in scoring as Cecelia Mora and Taliyah Scott each had 11 points and Urya’ Williams added eight.