Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Jefferson City Jays got off to a slow start Friday against Roosevelt, turning the ball over three times in their first six possessions and failing to covert a basket in the first four minutes of the game.
The slow start didn’t last, and the Jays outrebounded Roosevelt 37-7 and shot 56.8 percent from the floor as they eased to a 67-37 defeat of the Rough Riders at Fleming Fieldhouse.
Still, coach Blair Thompson wasn’t thrilled with the sloppy play.
“All year, we have been a team that plays exactly how we practice,” he said, “and quite frankly, the last two days, practices haven’t been as sharp as they had the week previous. Coming off a couple big wins, we kind of felt like the coaching staff, we took the foot off the gas a little bit as far as focusing and getting after it in practice, where we had done a great job leading up to this. We talked about it at the end of practice, and lo and behold, the pattern held true.”
Roosevelt went ahead 2-0 after more than two minutes of scoreless play, but it was the last time the Rough Riders would lead. Jefferson City went on a 13-0 run and ended the quarter up 14-4. The Jays rode a 7-0 run into the second period to take a 20-4 lead but couldn’t broaden it further before halftime and ended the quarter up 30-15.
Coming out of the half, Thompson asked his team to play with more energy and get the crowd into the game. The Jays responded by making shots on their first five possessions, and O.G. Anunoby and Kamari Balton provided the fireworks on an off-the-backboard alley oop that resulted in Anunoby’s fourth dunk of the night.
The senior finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, all in the first three quarters.
“I thought as a group, as a team, we had the edge inside tonight,” Thompson said.
Anunoby shot 3-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line in the quarter and Balton and Eysan Wiley each chipped in four points to lead Jefferson City to a 48-22 lead entering the fourth quarter.
With a large lead intact, the Jays saw some encouraging production from players off the bench. Seth Stegeman shot 3-of-3 in the fourth quarter — including two 3s — and finished with 11 points on the night.
“We’re trying to get his confidence up, because we’re going to need him to hit some shots for us, and he has, and he will,” Thompson said of Stegeman. “… For a shooter, 90 percent of it’s confidence, and I hope those that he got to go down help that confidence level go up.”
Devonte Jones also produced in the fourth quarter, scoring six of his eight points and tallying three of his four rebounds. The game was the first of the year for Jones, a senior transfer.
“It’s just kind of mind-blowing for a guy coming into that situation,” Thompson said. “Tonight was a good opportunity to slide him in and just turn him loose, which we did, and he did a good job. Played hard, got to the rim, was aggressive.”
Four players scored eight or more points, with Anunoby, Stegeman and Wiley finishing in double figures. Anunoby had a team-high seven rebounds and Caleb Burruss pulled down six.
Though the Jays dominated the Rough Riders on the boards and held them to a 33.3 percent shooting clip, Jefferson City had 16 turnovers to Roosevelt’s 12.
Thompson said it was important to have a good showing Friday with a tough schedule ahead.
Friday was “just one of those games, you don’t want to lose focus,” he said, “because we’ve got a tremendous stretch of games coming up with a lot of rivals and good teams.”
The Jays (11-7) play Tuesday at Rock Bridge, at Hickman a week after that and at Battle the following Friday.