After three consecutive losses, all to Suburban Conference Gold rivals — including two in the previous seven days by a combined 31 points, Cody Isabel needed just one word to capture the feeling he and his Blue Springs teammates felt after Friday’s 72-62 win over visiting Liberty.
“Finally,” said the junior center, allowing himself a relieved sigh and smile at the Wildcats’ first conference win.
Isabel scored a team-best 17 points, nearly half of them on offensive put-backs, as Blue Springs turned a poor-shooting, back-and-forth opening 10 minutes into a well-rounded win in which four Wildcats reached double figures.
Isabel, at 6-feet-5, and 6-2 forward Brian Armstrong, who had 8 points, were able to pose matchup and rotation problems for the Blue Jays.
Their presence on defense helped key the game-defining run in the second and third quarters, when Liberty couldn’t find driving lanes and settled for often-contested shots inside.
With Blue Springs trailing 26-22 midway through the second quarter, Isabel’s layup and a pair of three-pointers by Walter Sorrells ignited a 10-2 run as the Wildcats took a 32-28 halftime lead.
“We really emphasized defensive intensity, and that really led to that run,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said.
After enduring nine lead changes and five ties, Blue Springs, 11-8, didn’t trail again, opening the third quarter with another Isabel layup and five consecutive points, while taking advantage of Liberty turnovers during that 15-2 span.
“Horrible turnovers killed us,” Liberty coach Roger Stirtz said.
The Blue Jays, 13-6, committed 18 in the game — 10 of them in the second and third quarters — and got no closer the rest of the way than 5 points, at 39-34 with 3:34 left in the third, despite 26 points from guard Kellen Turner and making 23 of 28 free throws.
Jay Corwin scored 16 points and made eight of 10 free throws for Blue Springs, while guards Sorrells and Justin Pruitt each scored 11.
Isabel’s three-point play in the opening minute of the fourth gave the Wildcats a double-digit lead for the first time, distance they maintained the rest of the way.
“That’s something we’ve been working on, keeping the same intensity level all game,” Isabel said. “Playing for four quarters, not just two or three.
“This (win) is a slingshot. It’ll push us the rest of the way this season.”