Blue Springs not taking sectional opponent Lee's Summit lightly

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Blue Springs' Eli Wingert, right, drives to the hoop for a shot against Raytown's Aaron Franklin in the Class 6 District 14 championship Friday. Wingert and Ike Ezeogu provide inside scoring and defense for the balanced Wildcats, who meet Lee's Summit in a Class 6 sectional Tuesday.

When the Blue Springs boys basketball team routed Raytown 78-47 in the Class 6 District 14 championship game Friday, there was a bit of celebrating.

But coach Adam Jones and his players realize that the biggest games lie ahead for the 19-5 Wildcats, who travel to Lee's Summit 6 p.m. Tuesday for a Class 6 sectional playoff against the 15-7 Tigers.

"We're excited because we beat a good Raytown team," said point guard Kyle Bruce, "but we know that if we want to get to state – and that has been our goal all year – we have to keep playing great basketball like we played (Friday)."

The Wildcats have one of the most complete teams in the area with Bruce running the show from his point guard position.

More:Wildcats junior guard Kyle Bruce has keys to drive Blue Springs offense

Braden Appelhans (16.4 ppg), who combines with Mike Harrison (9.5 ppg) to give the Wildcats a pair of outside threats, had one of the most impressive games in recent history, hitting 8-of-9 3-point shots for 26 points in the win over Raytown. Ike Ezeogu (14.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Eli Wingert (12.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg) dominated the lane on both sides of the court. Ezeogu scored 20 points and took a half-court pass from Wingert with one second left in the first half and turned it into a buzzer-beating dunk.

"We're really playing well now," Ezeogu said. "Mike and KB (Bruce) are running the show and we're all doing what we can to keep this season going."

Blue Springs guard Braden Appelhans (13) rises up for a jump shot in a Class 6 District 14 semifinal win over Grain Valley. The junior made 8 of 9 3-point attempts in the district final and finished with 26 points.

Despite the fact that his team enjoyed a mercy-rule victory over a solid Blue Jays team that entered 21-5, Jones has no fear of the Wildcats dealing with overconfidence as they head to Lee's Summit Tuesday night. The Tigers are led by Brycen LaRue (12.1 ppg), Alex Banassi (10.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.6 apg) and Luke McDonald (8.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg).

"The guys know how big every game is at this time of the year," said Jones, whose team fell 43-41 in a sectional against Raymore-Peculiar last season. "I want this season to go as long as it can because the guys on this team are so much fun to be around. I don't know if I've ever coached a team that enjoyed being around each other as this team, and they are all so unselfish.

"KB had 12 points against Raytown (four 3-pointers and layup) and he would have been just as happy if he hadn't scored a point and we won. You could say the same thing for any guy on the team – and I stress team. These guys are playing some great basketball and they are playing for each other."

Appelhans said the Wildcats’ versatility makes them more of a threat.

"I was on fire (Friday), I was in a zone, but on nights I don't shoot well, I know Ike and Eli are going to take care of business and get a lot of rebounds," Appelhans said. "We all play off each other. KB can be dishing out assists and I can hit some threes and Ike and Eli get rebounds and they can hit the 3-point shot, too. It's just been such a fun season. We want it to keep going all the way to state."

Blue Springs was 6-1 against common opponents with Lee's Summit, while the Tigers were 3-3 against those same teams.

The winner of Tuesday’s sectional meets ninth-ranked Liberty (23-3) or third-ranked Staley (22-3) in a quarterfinal Saturday.