Blue Springs wanted a plodding, deliberate pace and got it.
It almost got the Wildcats a victory.
In a game where points came grudgingly, Raymore-Peculiar got them in the closing seconds, enough to squeak out a 43-41 victory and end the Wildcats season in a Class 5 boys basketball sectional at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
When these two teams met to end the regular season, Ray-Pec (25-3) rolled up 73 points on the Wildcats and an easy victory. Blue Springs (16-11) wasn’t going to let that happen this time.
“It was extremely physical,” Ray-Pec coach Scott Jermain said. “It was extremely physical on both ends and they did a nice job of controlling the tempo.”
That enabled Blue Springs to be within 34-29 after three back-and-forth quarters. When Kyle Bruce drove for a basket and followed with a 3-pointer off a turnover with 2 minutes left, the Wildcats trailed 38-37 after holding the Panthers to two points over 5 minutes.
With 25 seconds left, Blue Springs forward Ikenna Ezeogu drove the lane for a bucket and a 39-39 tie.
Just 5 seconds later, MIke Harrison was whistled for his fifth foul, putting I’Ryan Allen on the line. Allen, who hadn’t put up a shot all game, swished both free throws after the Panthers made just one of their last four, missing the front end of two one-and-ones.
Blue Springs coach Adam Jones called a timeout with 15.7 seconds left to set up a 3-pointer for sophomore guard Braden Appelhans. Appelhans’ shot sailed long, and the Wildcats’ Isaac Harkness fouled Ray-Pec’s Jordan Jermain on the rebound.
Jermain sank both free throws with 3.7 seconds left, capping a 21-point game and sealing the win for the Panthers. An uncontested dunk by Ezeogu at the buzzer ended the scoring.
“Our kids battled,” Scott Jermain said. “That was the biggest thing. We were down and they kept battling.”
So did Blue Springs, which kept on Ray-Pec’s heels through five ties and six lead changes.
Blue Springs led 15-12 when Ezeogu hit a follow at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter. Ezeogu’s basket started a 6-0 run he capped with a slam dunk from a feed from Harrison.
Ray-Pec opened the third with an 8-2 run that included two baskets from Jermain, giving the Panthers a 28-27 lead they would never relinquish.
But Blue Springs didn’t go away as it continued to dictate the tempo and collapse on 6-7 Ray-Pec senior Kian Scroggins. Scroggins finished with 13 points, well below his 18 points-per-game average.
Harrison scored 14 points before fouling out to lead Blue Springs, which was playing its first sectional game since 2004. Bruce and Ezeogu finished with 10 points each.