Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Jefferson City Jays wanted to get more players involved in their second game Tuesday in the Great 8 Classic. It worked, and as a reward the Jays got even more players onto the Fleming Fieldhouse floor.
The Jays beat Joplin 73-30, all but emptying their bench during their running-clock win in a loser’s bracket semifinal contest.
“My intent tonight was just to get more players in the rotation and it went like it did,” Jays coach Blair Thompson said. “It took on a life of its own and we were able to get a lot of guys in, which is always a good thing.”
Seth Stegeman scored 20 first-half points for the Jays, single-handedly outscoring the Eagles. He hit eight of his 10 first-half shots, four of which were 3-pointers.
“With shooters, it’s just a confidence thing,” Thompson said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well (Monday) night, comes back here and shoots the ball really well tonight. That’s just a thing in his head that he gets figured out.”
Stegeman was coming off a 2-of-6 shooting night Monday against Kettering (Ohio) Fairmont, a game in which he missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
“Yesterday was a little rough in shooting for me,” Stegeman said Tuesday, “and I just and I kept shooting during practice, working it out and finally figured it out,” he said.
Stegeman was one of seven Jays to attempt a shot in the first two quarters. Junior Chuck Cooper made the most of Jefferson City’s extended rotation, scoring 10 first-half points off the bench and 17 total. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts.
“Chuck gave us a great spark off the bench,” Thompson said. “He’s got a different gear, he’s quick, and he’s a threat to put the ball on the ground, which is an added element to our offense with him. But he’s also got the ability to knock down some shots, and he did that tonight.”
The Jays were playing on the left side of the bracket thanks to their loss to the Firebirds on Monday, during which they led by as many as 10.
“We had a long conversation last night and again this morning regarding last night’s performance,” Thompson said Tuesday, “and we addressed getting off to a fast start and maintaining our intensity throughout until the fourth quarter.”
Stegeman said the loss was especially frustrating because it was the Jays’ first home game of the season.
“We just kind of worked on our motion a little in practice (afterward), working things out, talking about what we need to do better,” said Stegeman, whose 20 points led all scorers. “And then we just came out with a lot of energy tonight, and it was good to come together and get another win.”
The Jays led by 19 after one quarter and 29 at the half. There was a running clock for the entire fourth quarter, and more than a dozen Jays saw the floor.
“It’s fun from a lot of standpoints,” Thompson said. “The guys deserve it. A lot of those young guys haven’t played in a while. We have some seniors on the bench who haven’t played in a while and they deserve some minutes.
“Tonight was a good opportunity to do that and we were able to do that and just kind of mix some guys in and get some different rotations going on tonight and it was fun. Every time you can get that many guys involved, it’s fun for everybody. It keeps them focused.”
The Jays (7-2) play Owasso (Okla.) at 4 p.m. today in the fifth-place game.
“I think (today) is an extremely important game for us,” Thompson said. “Owasso’s a great team. They had a tough first-round game with Helias. Helias got on them pretty early but we know we’re going to have our hands full in the third day of this tournament.
“We played a lot of guys tonight, some guys didn’t play as many minutes as they were used to. Maybe they helps us going into tomorrow. I don’t know yet, but I was proud of the way we responded and how we maintained our intensity throughout tonight.”