Blue Springs senior Donte Watkins has been disappointed with his foul shooting.

Blue Springs senior Donte Watkins has been disappointed with his foul shooting.

But he wasn’t disappointed with it at crunch time Thursday against Lincoln Prep – and his teammates and coaches probably weren’t either.

Watkins, who shot an estimated 50 free throws during pregame warm-ups, made four foul shots during the final 30 seconds to help give the Wildcats a 57-54 first-round Cardinal Division victory in the American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic at William Jewell College. The shots were his only free throws of the game and the last of his 10 points.

“I’ve definitely taken a step forward (today),” Watkins said. “You can never be satisfied where you are. I’ve got a long way to go. But hard work pays off – and if you keep working hard, good things are going to happen.”

Watkins’ performance in the clutch was in keeping with his personality, Wildcats coach Adam Jones suggested.

“Donte’s one of those kids that wants the ball,” Jones said. “He’s one of the most competitive people we have at our school. He wants to shoot those free throws every time. He did a good job.”

Lincoln Prep had its own go-to player: senior forward Charles Harris. And he helped the Tigers force the third-seeded Wildcats (5-3) to hold on for a comeback win during the final 1:08.

With Blue Springs leading 51-50 behind Cody Isabel’s team-high 16 points, Harris made two free throws for the last of his 31 points to give the Tigers their final lead of the seesaw affair. Justin Pruitt’s 2-point basket put the Wildcats ahead again, 53-52, a few seconds later. Then, with 27.5 seconds left, Watkins made two one-and-one foul shots to make it a three-point ballgame. From there, a 2-point basket by Issac Smith cut Blue Springs’ lead to 55-54 and Watkins sank his final two foul shots with 16.1 seconds left.

After calling timeout with 11.9 seconds left, Lincoln Prep got the ball to Harris, hoping to at least make it a one-point game again. With defenders swarming around him, Harris passed the ball out on the wing. Sophomore guard/forward Jonathan Reese heaved a 3-point attempt that clanged off the rim and the Wildcats secured their meeting in the division semifinals with second-seeded Park Hill South, which cruised past Raymore-Peculiar 52-29 Thursday night.

Although Harris felt that he “should be taking shots” at crunch time, he didn’t fault Reese for attempting to sink a game-tying trey.

“He’s an incredible player,” Harris said.

Adams expressed a similar opinion about Harris, who also grabbed 16 rebounds for a double-double.

“We knew he was a good player,” Jones said. “He was the main guy that we were breaking down, making sure we stopped him.”

But the Wildcats didn’t stop him.

“He dominated us,” Jones said.

Sparked by Harris, the Tigers trailed the Wildcats by two after one quarter (14-12), were even with the Wildcats 28-28 at halftime, led 42-40 after three quarters and then forced the close finish. But Harris suggested he didn’t carry Lincoln Prep Thursday; rather, the Tigers forced Blue Springs to go down to the wire because of their character.

“I think we’ve just really adapted to being underdogs coming into a game,” he said. “And with that being said … (we) are just motivated to keep on fighting.”

Jay Corwin added 11 points for Blue Springs.