Juniors Appelhans, Bruce rain down 3-pointers to lead Wildcats' rout of Jays in final
Kyle Bruce is the man who drives the explosive Blue Springs offense.
Yet in the Class 6 District 14 championship game Friday night against a determined Raytown Blue Jays team, the junior point guard decided to show off a bit of his long-range skills.
Bruce (4) and fellow junior Braden Appelhans (8) combined for 12 3-pointers to lead the 19-5 Wildcats to a stunning 78-47 rout of the 21-6 Blue Jays.
“Braden and I shared the keys to the Lambo tonight,” said Bruce, who often refers to the Blue Springs offense as a Lamborghini. “We were feeling it. We took care of business outside, Ike (Ezeogu) dominated down in the paint and we played our best game of the season when it meant the most.
“Man, this just feels so good!”
Appelhans shot an impressive 8 of 9 from the 3-point line and finished with a game-high 26 points. Ezeogu added 20 and Bruce had 16 as the Wildcats moved on to play at Lee’s Summit in a Class 6 sectional playoff at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
When he was informed that he connected on 8 of 9 from long range, Appelhans grinned and shook his head.
“We were all feeling it tonight,” Appelhans said after the Widcats' second straight district title. “Most of the guys on this team have played together since the fourth grade, and we’ve been talking about going to state since we were little kids.
“With this win, we’re one game closer, and if we keep playing like this, I think we have a good shot of making the final four.”
Bruce and Appelhans each hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Wildcats took a 22-14 lead.
But it was Ezeogu who dominated early on, grabbing five boards and scoring eight points.
“This was the best our inside/outside game has worked this season,” Ezeogu said. “KB (Bruce) does a great job getting guys the ball, and he even scored a few points tonight (laughing, as Bruce was within listening distance).
“We’re playing so well right now and Coach (Adam Jones) is going to keep us focused. He had to keep us focused tonight in the locker room after that dunk to end the half.”
With one second left in the half, Eli Wingert threw a long pass to Ezeogu, who caught the ball and made a crowd-pleasing dunk to give the Wildcats a 44-22 lead at the break.
“I call that the Mahomes to Kelce pass,” joked Wingert, referring to Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. “I didn’t think we had time to get a basket, but Ike caught the ball near the net and did the rest. That dunk was so cool.”
Jones, whose Wildcats have won eight of their last nine, said he is not concerned about his team losing its work ethic following the running clock victory.
“These guys are too focused, they’ve worked too hard all season to stop working now,” Jones said after his team avenged a 51-39 loss to the Blue Jays in a William Jewell Holiday Classic division championship game on Dec, 30. “If anything, a win like this will make them want to work harder.”
Appelhans finished with two 3-pointers in the first quarter, one in the second, four in the third and one in the opening minute of the fourth quarter before Jones pulled his starters.
“Braden has eight 3-pointers before, but I’ve never seen anyone go 8-for-9,” Jones said. “The guys just played so well tonight. Everyone who played tonight contributed.”
Aaron Franklin finished his high school career at Raytown with a team-high 21 points.
“Franklin can play,” Ezeogu said. “He was working as hard at the end of the game as he was at the beginning. That shows how much it meant to him.”