For the third straight season, Blue Springs’ foray into hostile territory across the state line produced a championship.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The Wildcats snagged a third consecutive title Friday at Blue Valley North’s KA-MO Classic by knocking off the host Mustangs 57-48 behind a game-best 21 points from senior Lizzy Wendell.
“That was pretty fun,” Wendell said. “We like coming over here and playing the Kansas schools.”
More than that, Blue Springs, which knocked St. Thomas Aquinas from the unbeaten ranks Wednesday during the semifinals, likes beating the Kansas schools.
“We played two of the best teams in Kansas, so it’s a good feeling to beat them in back-to-back games and a great accomplishment for our girls,” Wildcats coach Mark Spigarelli said.
Early in the season, Blue Springs, 13-2, struggled offensively with limited scoring options behind Wendell, who signed with Drake, and Texas Tech-bound point guard Karyla Middlebrook.
Such struggles were a distant memory Friday night.
Middlebrook only had nine points before fouling out, but senior Tyra Bickham scored eight and two other Wildcats, senior Tara Sheehy and sophomore Aliyah Lee, chipped in seven apiece in the victory.
“Our other girls are starting to step up, and that’s making all the difference in the world,” Spigarelli said. “We’ve played a brutal schedule, and I think early in the year our young ones were a little shell-shocked at the level of competition. Now, they’re ready for it.”
Without a doubt, Blue Springs was more ready than BV North, 9-2, at the outset.
Four players — Wendell and Middlebrook along with sophomore Morgan McMahan and Sheehy — had a bucket each during a tone-setting 8-0 run to start the game.
“It was a great start for us, especially with McMahan and Sheehy coming out and hitting baskets,” Spigarelli said. “That probably loosened up their defense a little bit.”
The Mustangs battled back within 20-19 midway through the second quarter, but the Wildcats answered with a 10-0 spurt and never led by fewer than six the rest of the way.
Wendell and Lee scored four each during the streak.
“We were a little bit on the ropes and that helped us gather ourselves and get our composure back,” Spigarelli said.
Of course, the lead also never grew larger than 13.
“We’d make a run, but then we’d have some mental breakdowns,” BV North coach Ann Fritz said. “We wouldn’t box out, which gave them second and third looks. We had breakdowns on defense they don’t usually have, which gave them layups and easy shots. Against a good team like that, you can’t get away with that.”
Wendell was named tourney MVP.
“She has a competitive attitude and she’s a winner,” Fritz said. “She didn’t come off the court. She battled and kind of willed her team to a win.”
Along with Wendell, Middlebrook and BV North senior Christian Keys were named to the all-tourney team along Staley’s Marissa Preston and Tia Weledji of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Weledji led the Saints with 15 in a 53-39 win against Preston’s Falcons in the third-place game.
Junior Monique Townson led all scorers with 21 and Preston added 16 in the loss.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer