Lady Jays still learning system as Invitational starts

The Jefferson City Lady Jays enter the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational with as many wins as they compiled all of last season.

While that’s nice, it’s not what the Lady Jays are focusing on.

“When you look at where the players are, especially with our change in style, the way they’ve bought in and executed those changes, that’s what’s important,” Lady Jays coach Shane Meyer said as Jefferson City (3-4) prepared for today’s Invitational opener against Southeast (Oklahoma City, Okla.) at 7 p.m. at Rackers Fieldhouse.

“We’re encouraged by what we’ve done so far.”

The Lady Jays are playing a slower, more defensive brand of basketball this season. And it’s still a learning process in the early going.

“They’ll know when they make a mistake that they shouldn’t have done it,” Meyer said. “Now it’s getting to the point of not making that mistake where before we’d have to coach them about it. We’re still evolving.

“We’re excited about where this team is and where this team can get to this season.”

Megan Foster, a sophomore, leads the Lady Jays at 13.9 points per game.

“She knows she has to look to score at times,” Meyer said. “She’s knocked down some shots and done a very good job at the free-throw line.”

Kezia Martin, a senior, is next at 9.7 points.

“Kezia gives us a pretty good 1-2 scoring punch,” Meyer said.

The other starters include Nicole Martin (4.9), Kaley Ruff (3.9) and Tayler LePage (2.6).

“We’ve got three or four kids who can score between 8-12 points in a game,” Meyer said. “We can be pretty balanced.”

The Lady Jays are averaging just less than 40 points per game this season. Not that it’s a bad thing.

“We’re not built to score 75 points a night,” Meyer said. “There are games where scoring in the 40s will be a very good night for us on offense because of limiting possessions.”

On the defensive side, the Lady Jays are allowing about 42 points a contest.

“We are competing on the defensive end,” Meyer said. “We’re hanging in there, being scrappy, getting on the floor. The kids have done a very good job of making people work because of our athleticism.”

With the style, the Lady Jays figure to be in a lot of close contests.

“There will be a lot of ‘coin-flip’ games, where it feels like the game is going to come down to a couple of plays that decide a game,” Meyer said. “But those are good learning experiences.”

The Lady Jays are pulling down about four more rebounds per game than their opponents this season, which helps on the defensive end. Kezia Martin is averaging 8.5 boards per contest, with Nicole Martin close behind at 7.4.

“We’re limiting other teams’ possessions with our rebounding,” Meyer said.

Southeast will bring a young team, with nine freshmen or sophomores, to the Invitational. Jayna Bojorquez, a freshman, has strong numbers in points (7.3 average), rebounds (7.7), assists (5.0) and steals (4.0) this season.

The Lady Jays are looking to improve on their eighth-place finish last season. Perhaps by a lot.

“If we can do this and do that, we could be playing for the championship,” Meyer said. “But on the other side, if we don’t do those things, we could be playing in the seventh-place game.

“And there are probably a bunch of teams like that in this tournament. Everybody should be excited about their chances, but don’t take anything for granted.”

Meyer said his team will take the Invitational one game at a time.

“Like a lot of ball games this year, it’s a chance for us to compete and try to get a game to the fourth quarter and try to make some plays,” he said.

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