When freshman phenom Jada Williams joined the Blue Springs Wildcats this season, it seemed like it was going to give an already solid team a boost.
However, that boost didn’t manifest itself early in the season when Blue Springs lost three of its first four games.
Recently, however, the Wildcats have put things together. They pushed their winning streak to seven games behind a team-best 15 points from Williams in a 42-30 rout of host William Chrisman Tuesday night.
“We have a lot of talent on our team, but at the end of the day, we’re playing well as a team,” Williams said. “I am really excited. Everyone is running the floor and playing good defense.”
It wasn’t a flashy performance. It was a defensive-heavy game in which Blue Springs held the Bears (3-4) to to 25 percent shooting from the floor and helped force 13 turnovers. That’s been the key to the Wildcats’ recent success, Spigarelli said, as his team had held its last seven opponents to just 37.3 points per game.
“They are putting things together on both ends of the floor,” Wildcats coach Mark Spigarelli said. “They are definitely doing that on defense, and they are getting better on offense.”
Williams has been part of that improved defense. She’s improved herself since the start of the season as she added two steals and helped limit Chrisman’s guards to just 1-of-18 shooting.
“She made a real quick jump,” Spigarelli said of Williams. “Her first two or three games, I didn’t think she was putting enough pressure on the ball. Now she’s putting all kinds of pressure on the ball.”
And that was key against the Bears since they have had to rely more on their perimeter players to score after last year’s leading scorer, sophomore center Jacque David, tore her ACL last month. Blue Springs held junior Gia Moore, who scored 26 points in Chrisman’s last game against Oak Park, to 0-for-11 shooting.
“We’ve done some things to try and showcase our perimeter play,” Chrisman coach Scott Schaefer said. “We still have capable people inside, so we may need to go there more. We will form a new identity a little bit. It takes a bunch of people to be able to do it.”
It was a struggle on offense in the early going for both teams as they were tied 10-10 after the first period before Blue Springs (8-3) went into halftime up 20-16. The third quarter is when the Wildcats started to take control. They allowed just one basket, a layup from Chrisman senior forward Annie Nauer. Meanwhile Blue Springs scored all eight of its third-quarter points in the paint as it took a 28-18 lead into the final period.
Chrisman came as close as seven points (30-23) after Moore lobbed a pass to Jennifer David, who finished inside and totaled 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting. Then senior guard Jayla Sample helped seal it for the Wildcats, scoring six of her 12 points in the fourth, keying an 8-0 run that gave her team its biggest lead at 38-23.
“I wouldn’t have had any good looks late if it wasn’t for my teammates,” Sample said. “They were getting me open and passing me the ball.”
Despite the loss, Schaefer was able to take away some positives, including the play of freshman forward Mele Taula. She scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed five boards.
“She’s had moments,” Schaefer said. “(The Wildcats) put so much pressure on our perimeter and for us to still get the ball inside and for her to still do something with it is pretty impressive.”