Blue Springs guard RJ Lawrence raised both his hands in the air.
His index fingers and thumbs formed a circle with his other three fingers straight up – a modern hand gesture that signals a made 3-point shot. Lawrence did it a couple seconds before teammate Tyree King’s shot went in. It’s something that Golden State Warriors star guard Steph Curry has done a few times when he or a teammate has shot a three.
That’s just the kind of confidence Lawrence and the rest of the team has in King, a prolific 3-point shooter. Lawrence whipped a pass to a wide-open King on the right wing and the senior guard buried it in the fourth quarter. That was one of three clutch treys that he hit in the fourth quarter as he guided his team to a huge 67-62 win over No. 2 state-ranked Lee’s Summit West Tuesday.
“We put up a lot of shots in practice,” King said. “I am confident in anybody. I’ll put up the 3-sign for anyone. Especially RJ. He’ll knock it down every time.”
Blue Springs moved into first place in the Suburban Big Seven after improving its league record to 6-1 with a sweep of a loaded Titans team (17-2), whose only two losses came at the hands of the Wildcats (13-7).
“With me, RJ, Daniel (Parker) and the rest of the people on our team, I think we can compete with anyone in the state,” said King, who had a game-high 23 points.
The Wildcats now have a big showdown with conference rival Park Hill Friday, who are a half-game back of first place and handed Blue Springs its only conference loss.
“We’re in a good spot, but (the conference) is loaded,” Blue Springs coach Adam Jones said. “We got a lot of work ahead of us. I am really pleased with our effort tonight.”
Blue Springs actually led for most of the game after erasing an early 7-2 deficit in the first and went into the fourth up 45-39 against a Titans team that is one of the favorites to win the Class 5 championship and has two Division I recruits (Elijah Childs and Christian Bishop).
After West’s Mario Goodrich made a driving layup to close the gap to 47-41, King answered with a 3-pointer to open up a nine-point cushion. Childs later scored a basket inside to inch a bit closer at 52-48, but King again answered with a trey to push the lead back to seven.
The Titans made one final push midway through the quarter when Childs hit a pair of free throws, helped his team get a stop on the other end and hit a baseline turnaround jumper over Parker to slice Blue Springs’ edge to 55-52.
But who was there to quell the Titans’ momentum? Who else?
King took a pair of crossover dribbles with Goodrich guarding him and created enough space to drill a pull-up 3-pointer from the right wing.
“When he hits those big shots, it doesn’t shock us,” Jones said of King. “What was really neat about those big shot that he hit was because of the things his teammates did. RJ set two great screens for him. Hunter (Grobmyer) made two great passes to him and Cory (Bonner) made an extra pass to him. When he gets an open look, you know it’s good.”
Parker later put the game out of reach with under a minute left when he got the ball with a wide-open lane after the Wildcats broke West’s press. He then drove to the basket and threw down a dunk to make it 67-57.
“For me it was like the dagger in their heart,” Parker said. “After I got that dunk, they were like, ‘Dang, their big center is getting up there and dunking the ball. It’s over for now.’”
With the Titans having the 6-foot-8 Childs and 6-foot-7 Bishop protecting the rim, Blue Springs spread the floor effectively, making 9 of 19 shots from behind the arc (47 percent). Lawrence was also a contributor to that total, making 2 of 6 attempts while totaling 16 points.
“They have been the best backcourt in my opinion since last year,” Parker said of King and Lawrence. “I don’t think there will be another backcourt like those two.”
Wildcat forward Bonner provided a fourth option in the offense that opened up things for Parker, Lawrence and King. Normally known as a solid defender, Bonner came up big on offense, scoring 11 points, 10 of which came on mid-range jump shots.
“My coaches and my teammates always believe in me to hit that shot, that’s my range,” Bonner said. “We are usually looking for Daniel, RJ and Tyree. That’s our trio. I am here to bring the team together and play defense.”
Added Jones: “He has the green light (with) anything below the volleyball line.”
Jones also had to give credit to the defense of Parker, who had to guard Childs most of the game. The Blue Springs junior limited the Bradley University recruit to 12 points.
“He followed the scouting report to a tee,” Jones said. “He didn’t bite on his shot fakes and made him make mistakes. He played 32 minutes today. We couldn’t afford to take him out because he was doing such a great job on the bigs.”
Parker added 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. King had six rebounds and four assists and Lawrence grabbed five boards and had three assists.