Staley too much for South down the stretch

By Michael Smith
Special to The Examiner

Blue Springs South played some inspired basketball against No. 4 state-ranked Staley.

The Jaguars played scrappy man-to-man defense in Tuesday’s Nelson Division semifinals of the William Jewell Holiday Classic. Their offense was good enough to win and their energy high.

That effort helped South lead the Falcons for most of the second half. But the Jaguars rushed some shots in the final four minutes, and Staley established an inside presence late to escape with a 50-46 win at the Mabee Center.

South will play Truman in the third-place game Wednesday afternoon.

“I remember one shot I didn’t love,” South coach Josh Smith said of the latter part of the fourth. “I felt it was a bit rushed. I think we were a little bit impatient offensively. Maybe feeling pressured, thinking, ‘They are coming after me. I have to make a play.’

“Staley is maybe the best team in the city. They are very, very good. They defend as well as anybody.”

The Jaguars (4-4) got off to a slow start, falling behind 19-7 in the first quarter as they shot 25 percent from the field compared to Staley’s 53 percent. The Falcons then led 22-7 with 6:57 left in the second. That’s when South turned up the defensive intensity.

“We had a lot of guys log in a lot of minutes after digging ourselves in that early hole,” Smith said. “We had to fight so hard to get back in it. I think we may have ran out of gas down the stretch. I couldn’t have been prouder of how hard we fought and how we competed.”

South went on a 15-0 run over nearly five minutes. During that stretch, Staley had three turnovers and missed four shots. Quinton Robertson capped the run with a pair of free throws that tied the game 22. Staley snapped its skid with a three-point play from Kayden Fish with 1:59 remaining.

South then answered with a 7-0 spurt sparked by a Robertson 3-pointer, as it went into halftime up 29-25 after shooting 70 percent from the floor in the period.

South continued its inspired play into the third. The Falcons cut the lead to 32-31 early in the quarter on a free throw from Kyan Evans, who had a team-high 15 points. But a steal at halfcourt and a three-point play from South senior Devin Tomlinson highlighted a 9-4 run that pushed the lead to 41-35 heading into the final period.

South kept Staley at arm’s length early in fourth as Tomlinson, who had a game-high 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, hit a floater to make it 45-38 with five minutes left. But the offense then went cold as the Jaguars didn’t make another field goal.

That allowed Staley to rally and eventually take the lead for good. Two baskets inside from Fish sandwiched around an Evans 3-pointer tied it at 46. 

After South had a couple of empty possessions, including a missed free throw, Staley took the lead after another basket on the low block from Jamaal Davis. South missed a 3-pointer on the other end as it struggled to find an open shot, and Evans sealed the game with a pair of free throws.

“I thought we did well (on our interior defense) all night long,” Smith said. “We displayed a high level of understanding and awareness of who they are and what they are trying to do.

“But sometimes, you can do the right things defensively, the offense out-executes you and they win.”

Dallas Whitney was the other Jaguar in double figures with 10.