Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
With less than four minutes to play Saturday in the Central Bank Shootout, the Jefferson City Jays’ double-digit lead was down to three, forcing Blair Thompson to call a timeout.
“The whole gist of that timeout was really trying to get the ball inside,” the Jays coach said. “Just get it up on the glass, give our big guys a chance.”
They got a chance and they took advantage. Caleb Burruss scored on the next possession and Gunnar See completed a three-point play to put the Jays up eight at the 3-minute mark. They never looked back, beating Strafford 61-46.
Burruss and See were key contributors all game for the Jays, putting up 17 and 15 points, respectively, to lead all scorers.
“We had some real tough practices the past three days, and those guys were in the mix with all that,” Thompson said. “We needed them to get tougher and really just kind of laid out exactly what our expectations were, and I thought they took a very big step forward toward those expectations tonight.”
Burruss’ scoring total was a career best.
“Even if he’s not in the game, he’s a leader on this team,” Thompson said of the senior. “He’s a hard worker, and I love to see when he gets out there and has success on the floor. He’s a great teammate, does things the right way, and we’re just trying to help him be more effective in the post and just be active. Anything he gets his hands on, he should own it and he did a real good job with those things tonight.”
Jefferson City had led by as many as 15 midway through the third quarter before the Indians surged back with a 20-8 run.
“They’re just a tough, hard-nosed team that plays together, executes well offensively and makes you pay for mistakes,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s timeout preceded an eight-point run in the span of about two minutes.
The Jays made half their shots (20-of-40) and a third of their 3-pointers (5-of-15). Strafford was 16-of-41 from the field (39 percent), hitting 9-of-16 3s (56 percent).
“I thought our pressure bothered them, but that was part of our gameplan coming in,” Thompson said, “to try to keep them out of their comfort zone, which is halfcourt offense and getting guys to spots.”
The Indians were led by Wyatt Eubanks’ 12 points. The Jays also got 11 points from freshman Hudson Nilges.
“We’ve just been impressed with his confidence and toughness, really,” Thompson said of Nilges. “Mentally, he’s a tough kid. Not much bothers him, which is why you feel confident, even at 14 years old, sticking him out here and telling him, ‘You’ve got the point.’”
Jefferson City was without Seth Stegeman, who suffered a concussion Tuesday against Rock Bridge.
Jefferson City (13-7) host Hickman on Tuesday.