The Leavenworth Pioneers, using their prowess on the glass and a patient offense, got a second-quarter burst big enough to hold off the Blue Springs South Jaguars 42-33 on Friday night on the girls side of the Siege Sports Blue Springs South/Blue Springs Tournament.
The Pioneers, 2-0 and the defending Kansas Class 5A state champions, face Columbia Hickman in the tournament championship at 4:30 p.m Saturday. Blue Springs South is winless after a stiff three-game stretch to begin the season.
The Jaguars were tied twice with Leavenworth — at four midway through the opening quarter and at 11 after Naia Tauai hit a three-pointer to open the second quarter. But that’s when Leavenworth took over. The Pioneers scored the next nine points to go up 20-11 and then, after South momentarily stopped the bleeding, got three buckets in the final 1:13 of the half to push their lead to 26-13.
“The girls really turned the intensity up on defense that that turned into offense,” Leavenworth coach Jordan Mellott said. “When our defense turns into offense, it makes us a lot better.”
Leavenworth’s Tyler Johnson, a 6-foot-2 senior, scored all 11 of her points in the first half, including a three-pointer in the Pioneers’ 9-0 second-quarter run. Tashia Jones, a 6-foot senior, also finished with 11. Rachel Blackburn, a 6-3 senior, would have added to Leavenworth’s size advantage but has missed the first two games with injury.
“They’re obviously a tall team,” Blue Springs South coach Brad Oyler said. “They were able to spread us out and lob it inside in the second quarter and we missed some defensive rebounds that were costly.”
But the Jaguars didn’t go away, despite trailing by 16 with less than 2:00 to play in the third quarter. Cloe’ Lane opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, and Tauai followed with a three-point play to cap a 10-2 run that cut the deficit to 36-28 with 4:54 to play.
The Pioneers scored the next four points, squelching the momentum.
“I was proud of our girls. They didn’t give up against a good team,” Oyler said, noting that his team’s start to the season, including 4-1 Lee’s Summit West and undefeated Liberty, has been a challenge. “We’ve played three really good teams so far. We’ve come away with three losses, but we’ve been in every game and we’re doing some good things.”