Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
Rhylin Spence had just six points Tuesday, but he scored them at the right time.
The Jefferson City senior went on a six-point solo spurt during the fourth quarter to turn the Jays’ one-point edge into a seven-point cushion against Hickman. It was part of a big 23-point fourth quarter that boosted Jefferson City to a 54-43 win at Fleming Fieldhouse.
“Rhylin, he deserved something positive,” Jefferson City coach Blair Thompson said. “We’ve been on him for a while now because we know what kind of player he is, and he stepped up tonight.”
The Kewpies used four free throws to cut the Jays’ fourth-quarter margin to 40-39 with just more than four minutes to play. Spence rebounded his own miss on the next possession and put it in for his first points of the night. The game’s next points came on another Spence putback, during which he was fouled.
He missed the free throw but hit his next two, which came after yet another offensive rebound.
“He really went and got some huge rebounds late in the game, offensive putbacks,” Thompson said, “and had a really important and-1 late, which really solidified our opportunity to win. It was good to see that happen for him. He deserved it.”
The Jays’ 23 points in the final quarter matched their entire total from the first two.
“The first half, we thought we were stagnant offensively, and we were slow in getting back defensively,” Thompson said. “So that’s two things we addressed heavily at halftime. We just weren’t playing with a lot of urgency.”
The Jays never led in the third quarter, but the pace picked up in the fourth, most of which came because Hickman played a press defense. The Kewpies did cause seven of their 15 takeaways in that quarter, but Jefferson City was still able to outscore them by 13 in the final frame.
“I don’t think we handled it great as far as the pressure goes, but I think we handled it nonetheless,” Thompson said. “I thought it was good experience for us, some of our young guys, to see some of that and to finish a game against pressure for that duration of time.”
Jefferson City got a game-high 16 points from Gunnar See, who was 8-of-9 from the field.
“He was aggressive tonight, and he was less than 100 percent,” Thompson said. “He’s had a hamstring bothering him, so I’m really proud of him for battling through that and really being productive tonight. He was aggressive, and he was the beneficiary of some good passes, which I’m always a fan of.”
Freshman Hudson Nilges added 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep. Jacob Gourley had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Chase Thomas (14) and Judanté Sutton (10) were in double digits for Hickman, though they shot a combined 26 percent. Hickman shot 29.5 percent overall (13-of-44), compared to the Jays’ 44 (22-of-50).
There were six lead changes in the game, five in the first half.
The win was especially sweet for the Jays, coming against the rival Kewpies.
“Anytime a Columbia school comes in here, the ante goes up,” Thompson said, “Same when you go to their place. So I was proud we took care of business at home, and our guys deserved it.”
Jefferson City (14-7) was without Caleb Burruss, who put up a career-high 17 points the game before against Strafford. Burruss turned his ankle in practice and will be out three to six weeks.
“It’s a big blow,” Thompson said. “Caleb played so well Saturday, and it was terrible to see him go down the next practice.”
Seth Stegeman was also out, missing his second straight game with a concussion. He is expected to return to practice Thursday.