Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Jefferson City Jays had 60 points Friday night. Tim Nahach scored nearly half of them. The Jays had 20 made field goals. Nahach hit nearly half of them. The Jays made 16 free throws. Nahach sunk nearly half of them.
“For us, I believe he was the difference in the basketball game,” coach Blair Thompson said.
Not half bad.
Nahach finished with a career-high 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and hit all seven free throws to lead the Jays to a 60-50 defeat of Battle.
“Not only from a points standpoint, but defensively he was very active,” Thompson said. “Loose balls, he got to a lot of those, and he took a few charges. That’s getting it done on both ends and being a spark when we needed one desperately.”
Nahach had eight rebounds, and of his five on offense, four turned into putback points. He hit his first six shots from the field and had 10 points in the first quarter.
The Jays used his early burst to take a 22-13 lead into the second period, where Seth Stegeman scored seven of his nine points in his return from a concussion suffered last week.
“It was nice just to get him back out there and get his legs underneath him,” Thompson said. “It had been a while. At this point in the season, any time off is significant and to have to sit out as long as he did is tough to come back from.”
The Jays’ lead was 38-28 at the half, but the Spartans kept them from getting too comfortable, scoring the first 10 points of the third quarter.
Gunnar See hit a free throw to end a 3:30 drought, but two Mikhail Johnson buckets gave Battle the lead.
It would be their last. Nahach completed a three-point play to regain the lead and kickstart a 9-2 run.
The Jays struggled against Battle’s zone defense for much of the fourth quarter, hitting just two field goals and turning the ball over on five straight possessions at one point.
“We want our guards to get into the seams of the zone and we have trouble doing that at times,” Thompson said, “and sometimes we overpenetrate, which leads to turnovers. But a lot of it is just simple, fundamental issues that we continue to hammer in practice and just decision-making on our part.
“Unfortunately, we had a string of bad decisions that could’ve cost us this basketball game.”
Luckily for the Jays, the Spartans struggled even more. Battle hit just one field goal in the fourth quarter, none in the game’s final 4:30.
“We tried to speed them up a little bit,” Thompson said. “We came and got them in full court, just to try to get the game going up and down. Really, (we were) just trying to create energy where there was none on our end defensively, so we thought maybe if we could do that we could find some easy buckets in transition and not have to play against that zone.
“But just with that said, a lot of it was making them play a little bit faster, and guys taking shots that probably they didn’t want to.”
Daviante Ostrander missed his last six field-goal attempts of the game but managed to finish with a game-high 27 points for Battle. He hit six of his first eight shots from deep, three that would’ve counted in the NBA.
“He’s tough, because you have to come out and get him because he has such good range,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, he can put it on the floor and go by you.”
Ostrander and Nahach were the only players to score in double figures.
Jefferson City (15-7) has now won three straight.
“Winning’s not easy, and we’ll take anything we can get,” Thompson said. “We’ll take a win, but with the understanding that we’re going to need to get better. I think there’s three weeks until postseason play starts, but we want to be ready like every team does.”
The Jays play Tuesday at Lebanon.
“(That) will be important as far as district seeding goes,” Thompson said. “So that’s on our mind right now, and we’ll take it game by game — I know it’s cliche, but we have some things we need to address. We’re on film a lot, and people watch those films, so we need to turn our weaknesses into strengths as soon as possible.”