As one of three seniors on the Blue Springs girls basketball team, Marida Lewis has seen the talented class of underclassmen that dot the Wildcats’ roster grow this season by leaps and bounds.

As one of three seniors on the Blue Springs girls basketball team, Marida Lewis has seen the talented class of underclassmen that dot the Wildcats’ roster grow this season by leaps and bounds.

Head coach Mark Spigarelli’s team has struggled – if you can call a 23-3 record a struggle – this season trying to find the delicate balance of talented individuals meshing into a formidable collective.

“Oh, we’ve grown a lot from the beginning of the year,” Lewis said of a team that features seven non-seniors among their top eight players. “I think our chemistry has went way up. Our assist level has shot through the roof since the beginning of the year. We’re passing the ball better, and we’re being more patient on offense.”

The growing camaraderie all came to a head Saturday.

Using an attacking full-court press, the Wildcats clamped down on Lee’s Summit North for a 61-39 rout in the Class 5 District 14 championship game at Blue Springs South High School.

The Wildcats shot out the gate quickly in the first half, taking leads of 16-8 and 32-20 after the first two quarters. What looked to be a sure Blue Springs’ rout, quickly turned into a rally for the Broncos as the second half got under way.

More than two minutes elapsed in the third quarter before Broncos guard Simone McGautha nailed a 3-pointer and a layup to cut Blue Springs’ lead to 32-25.

After a layup by the Wildcats’ Cee Cee Burris, Lee’s Summit North’s Lauren Dudenhoeffer converted an and-one three-point play to make the score 32-28.

Ashley Creason’s layup with 4:12 left in the third quarter brought the Broncos to within four points as their cheering section went into a wild applause.

After a Blue Springs timeout, Burris and the Wildcats’ full-court defense went off. With the Wildcats leading 34-30, the silky-smooth 5-foot-11 forward, who scored a game-high 23 points, netted six of the Wildcats’ next eight points.

First was a driving, twisting, spinning layup that attracted a few “aahs” from the crowd. Burris then followed that with a steal and a layup.

A minute later, Burris attacked the rim again for a layup, giving Blue Springs a 40-32 lead.

The outburst ignited a 20-5 run that put Blue Springs (23-3) up 54-35 with just under five minutes left. The Wildcats closed out the game with a 7-4 run that lifted them into Wednesday’s 3 p.m. Class 5 state sectional playoff against Raytown at the Independence Events Center.

“We knew what we had to do defensively,” Lewis said. “We knew we had to pick up our intensity in half court and also in full-court press. We thought that we could get a lot of turnovers with our pressure.

“We got in the locker room (at halftime) and we knew with had to pick up our intensity. Then, when they cut the lead down, we had dropped our intensity, but Coach (Spigarelli) was like, ‘You guys are capable of way better than this, so you need to pick up your intensity.’ We came out and did that and it caused a lot of turnovers in transition.”

The turnovers were a source of heartache for the Broncos.

“They played a press with athletic kids,” Lee’s Summit North head coach Tricia Lillygren said. “They really, I think, jumped passing lanes, read our eyes – I mean, really, the athletes they have on their team is phenomenal. They did what they needed to do.”

Lillygren said she thought the Broncos were going to make a game of it after storming back in the third quarter. A string of turnovers – and layups – caused by the Blue Springs’ full-court pressure defense squashed those plans.

“I really thought things were going to shape up there,” Lillygren said of the four-point third-quarter Bronco deficit that ballooned to 19 points three minutes into the fourth quarter. “You can’t make that many mistakes in a row. Once we got down like that, you know, you can’t come back like that.”

Spigarelli said the Wildcats are starting to put it all together when it matters most.

“I was really proud of their intensity level in the first half,” Spigarelli said. “I thought they came out with and played with great defensive intensity. They moved they ball well, were patient on offense. Obviously, to start the third quarter we lost some intensity – they did a very good job after (the Broncos) cut (the lead) down, of getting it back.”

The Wildcats outscored the Broncos 24-6 in the fourth quarter.

“What I’m the most proud of is,” Spigarelli said, “in the fourth quarter, that’s the best we’ve been patient and moved the basketball and shot layups as a result of that. That’s the best probably in my two years at Blue Springs that our team has moved the ball like that.”

Sophomore Tyonna Snow chipped in 11 points and junior Jamesia Price scored nine points for Blue Springs, which is looking to make a return trip to the Class 5 final four.

Creason led the Broncos with 17 points and Dudenhoeffer finished with 13 in their final high school games.