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Wildcats shake off sluggish start, top Broncos

By Bill Althaus
With Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli, back left, looking on, sophomore guard Jada Williams goes up for a jump shot under pressure from Lee's Summit North's Elauni Bennett (44) in Monday's game at Blue Springs High School. Williams scored 12 points to help lead the Wildcats to a 67-48 win to improved to 4-0 in the Suburban Big Eight.

Mark Spigarelli is never going to walk out of the Blue Springs gym disappointed following a victory over a tough Suburban Big Eight opponent.

But Monday night at home, the Wildcats coach was pleased with the outcome but not the first-half performance of his team.

His all-state guard Jada Williams mirrored her coach’s thought process.

“We won, and I’m thrilled with the win, but we just aren’t executing our offense the way we should be,” Spigarelli said after the Wildcats improved to 7-3 overall and a perfect 4-0 in conference play. “We finally started scoring points off our offense, forcing them to turn the ball over or get a good look at the basket, and that’s how we turned the game around in the third period, but we need to be better than this, so much better.

Lee's Summit North's Elauni Bennett slices through the Blue Springs defense for a layup in Monday's game. Bennett scored 23 points but Blue Springs captured a 67-48 win.

“If we play like this the rest of the season, we can beat the good teams. But we’re not going to beat the elite teams, and those are the teams we have to beat to make it to the final four again this season.”

The score was tied 13-all after one period and the Wildcats padded that lead to 33-24 at halftime.

With 5:17 left in the third quarter, Blue Springs led 36-30. The Wildcats scored 22 points to finish the quarter and took a 58-36 lead into the final period.

Guard Ja’Cole Johnson scored eight of her team-high 18 points in the third quarter, with Williams getting an assist on each of those baskets.

Blue Springs' Nikole Schnell (14) sinks a 3-pointer over Lee's Summit North defender Lauren Draney in Monday's game at Blue Springs High School. The host Wildcats went on to claim a 67-48 win.

“We have to play 32 minutes of really good basketball to be a successful team the rest of the season,” said Williams, who finished with 12 points. “Anyone who saw us play tonight knows that that was not one of our better games.

“We got off to a slow start and needed that big run in the third period to win the game. We have to keep grinding and working hard for 32 minutes and we'll be a much more successful team.

“If we’re not playing hard for four quarters we’re not going to have the success we expect this season. We’ll get back to the gym and work hard and be ready for our next game.

Lee's Summit North's Elauni Bennett, back, gets off a shot as Blue Springs' Symiah Bradley (5) defends in Monday's game. Bennett fired in 23 points to lead the Broncos but Blue Springs pulled away in the second half for a 67-48 win.

North’s Elauni Bennett led all scorers with 23 points, and drew the praise of coach Sean Donovan, who was in charge of the team while head coach Tricia Lillygren is out due to COVID-19 protocols.

“They are a talented team, and they made the plays and the baskets when they needed to,” said Donovan, whose Broncos dropped to 3-5 overall and 0-3 in the conference. “Elauni played really well tonight. Our girls played hard throughout the game.”

Blue Springs' Symiah Bradley tries to arch a shot over Lee's Summit North defender Elauni Bennett in Monday's game at Blue Springs. The Wildcats pulled away in the second half for a 67-48 victory.