A player of few words, Lincoln Prep forward Charles Harris allowed his game to speak rather loudly Thursday.
Blue Springs, however, spoke last.
The Wildcats overcame Harris’ 31-point night and made a handful of clutch plays down the stretch for a 57-54 win Thursday evening in the opening round of the Cardinal Division of the American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic at William Jewell College.
Harris “is a guy we were talking about wanting to shut down,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “We held him to (31). We did a good job, didn’t we?”
The rest of the plan, at least, fell into place.
While Blue Springs center Cody Isabel had his hands full with Harris — who also grabbed 16 rebounds — he was able to answer with some buckets on the offensive end. Isabel battled foul trouble but still managed 16 points on nine shots, including two layups in the fourth quarter that gave Blue Springs a one-point lead with a minute remaining.
The Wildcats, 5-3, never relinquished it. Senior Donte Watkins made sure of that. He converted all four of his free-throw attempts in the final 27.5 seconds, forcing Lincoln Prep guard Jonathan Reese to heave a potentially game-tying three-pointer as the buzzer sounded. The hurried shot clanked off the rim.
Blue Springs forced the ball out of Harris’ hands in the final possession. Good thing, too. Harris made 13 of 20 shots and all five of his free throws on the way to his game-high 31 points. He pulled down eight offensive rebounds, converting those into 10 points.
“He was pretty strong,” Isabel said. “Our defense should’ve been better.”
Blue Springs played without junior forward Elijah Lee, whom Jones said sat out because of “in-house reasons.” He declined to elaborate.
Lee, who was in uniform, leads the team in rebounding (8.1 per game) and is third in scoring.
Park Hill South 52, Raymore-Peculiar 29
Senior Anthony Woods rattled off the improvements Park Hill South needed to make defensively as it were something of a liability.
In reality, it’s becoming the team’s best weapon.
Park Hill South limited Raymore-Peculiar to 29 percent shooting and cruised into the second round of the Cardinal Division.
Woods led all scorers with 12 points to go along with two steals.
“If you watch us play, there are still some things we have to get better at — we need to communicate better,” Woods said. “But we’re getting better every day in practice by going hard. We just have to stay consistent in everything we do.”
The defense was consistent Thursday, holding Ray-Pec to single digits in every quarter. Ben Harris was four of six for 11 points, while the rest of the Ray-Pec team combined for only seven made field goals.
Robert Lane added nine points and 10 rebounds for Park Hill South, which improved to 7-1. Hudson Welty scored 11 points, and Ryan Welty scored 10.
Liberty North 62, William Chrisman 58
Through three quarters, Liberty North put together a nearly flawless game, building an 18-point lead.
The Eagles began with a focus on their inside game, and Brinkley Jolly responded with five of his eight points in the first 3 minutes. That opened up the perimeter game, led by Jake Hanson, who buried three three-pointers in the third quarter.
In the final 8 minutes, though, all of that fell apart — and Chrisman nearly took an unexpected victory against the Cardinal Division’s top seed. Chrisman outscored Liberty North 24-10 in the fourth quarter before its comeback ran out of time.
“Unexplainable. I’m at a loss for words,” Liberty North coach Chris McCabe said. “I think what sticks out is these are the types of things we shouldn’t go through with an experienced group. We got to get these things changed, and changed quickly.”
Alex Ball led Chrisman’s comeback with 19 points. The Bears fell to 2-5.
Zach Starr, who made two free throws to seal the win, had 18 points for Liberty North, which improved to 6-3. Hanson and Brian Sharp had 11 each.