The last time Lee’s Summit won a boys basketball district title, most of the current players were toddlers. So it would be understandable if the Tigers acted like babes in the woods in postseason play.
That’s been far from the case, though.
On March 7 against Blue Springs South in the Class 5 District 13 title game. Lee’s Summit displayed the poise and grit of a tournament-tested team in a gutsy 78-74 victory over the Jaguars at Raytown.
Lee’s Summit, 19-6, now has its first district title since 2000 and a date tonight (March 12) with Fort Osage at 6:30 in sectional play at the Independence Events Center.
“It’s a district atmosphere,” Lee’s Summit coach Blake Little said. “There’s just nothing like it. It’s hard to explain to kids. For our guys who have not really been in an atmosphere like that in a long time and then to really rise up and own it … I’m just really proud of them.”
This of course is all new to Lee’s Summit junior Drew Lock. But Lock, who led the Tigers with 25 points, easily pinpointed what made the difference for his team.
“Honestly, it was our toughness,” Lock said. “We have a ton of it and it came out tonight.”
Blue Springs South entered the game with a 21-4 record, a punishing inside game and two victories over the Tigers under their belts. The Jaguars won the first meeting by 10 points, the second by four just the week before.
“The kids believed,” Little said. “When we lost to them last week, they were so upbeat in the locker room knowing we closed the gap and if we did it one more time we’d get them.”
Getting them would require finding an answer for Blue Springs South junior Kevin Puryear, a 6-foot-7 forward who finished with 30 points, and guard K.J. Robinson, who pumped in 25. The answer would be a gritty effort fueled by slashing to the basket and drawing fouls. Lee’s Summit finished 25 of 31 from the free-throw line.
Still, Lee’s Summit had to battle through five ties and 13 lead changes. The Tigers trailed most of the first half before getting a 42-41 lead early in the third quarter. Lock and Bruce Bias powered a 9-2 run for a 53-47 lead midway through the third period, but the Jaguars responded with a run of their own and led 57-56 going into the fourth quarter.
“We had a game plan for them, we executed it in the first half but got in foul trouble,” Lee’s Summit senior Grant Robbins said. “In the second half we executed it like we were supposed to and that’s how we got the win.”
Lee’s Summit jumped out to another lead, but Blue Springs South tied the game 72-72 with 1:06 to play when Puryear put back an offensive rebound and hit a free throw after being fouled by Lock.
Lee’s Summit then took the lead for good when Lock, who was 14 for 18 from the line, sank one of two free throws with 48 seconds left. The Jaguars turned the ball over on their next two possessions, and Blake Spellman gave the Tigers a 77-72 cushion by sinking four free throws down the stretch.
“We love to score, but ultimately what wins games down the stretch is you’ve got to get stops,” Little said. “And we got the stops and they didn’t and that was the difference.”
Next comes Fort Osage, which like Lee’s Summit hadn’t known much postseason success until recently. But the Indians, 19-6, won their third straight district last week and have won 15 of their last 16 games.
The Tigers, though, now have some big-game experience, too. And a district title to their credit.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game any bigger than this,” Robbins said. “And then to come out with a win and how close it was, it was just great.”