Lady Jays close strong to capture district opener

COLUMBIA — Jefferson City head coach Shane Meyer can be forgiven if he wasn’t sure how his team would react with a lead late in the fourth quarter.

After all, that’s been unfamiliar territory for the Lady Jays this season.

Clinging to a 33-32 advantage with less than three minutes remaining, Jefferson City closed the game on a 10-0 run, with all 10 coming from Megan Foster, to defeat Sedalia-Smith Cotton 43-32 in the first round of the Class 5 District 9 Tournament on Monday at Hickman.

The win moved Jefferson City to 3-23 and broke a 17-game losing streak. The Lady Jays hadn’t won since Dec. 11.

“My concern coming in was the fourth quarter,” Meyer said. “If we did have an opportunity to win, we don’t have a tremendous reservoir of experience to draw on.

“It wasn’t just hang on and hope we win, our kids went out and did some things and executed and hit some shots and made plays down the stretch, and that was fun to see.”

The Lady Jays were ecstatic as they left the floor, finally breaking their streak.

Jefferson City never trailed in the game, but fourth-seeded Smith-Cotton made a late push. A 3-pointer by Elena Sharp cut Jefferson City’s lead to 33-32 with 2:47 left.

But the fifth-seeded Lady Jays seemed to have an extra jump in their step Monday night.

Foster hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to put the Lady Jays up 39-32 with 1:15 left. Foster iced the game with four free throws in the final minute to give the Lady Jays a date with Rock Bridge at 6 p.m. today, weather permitting.

“Devon (Stegeman) and Megan both hit huge 3s down the stretch,” Meyer said. “Megan did a nice job from the free-throw line down the stretch to kind of ice things and not make it so interesting. That goes back to our kids making plays tonight. Really proud of them, and really proud to see them step up and do that.”

Jefferson City jumped out to a 6-0 lead on 3-pointers from Foster and Stegeman. It led 12-8 after the first quarter and 19-16 at halftime. The Lady Jays did not hit a 2-point field goal in the first half, but that changed right out the gate to start the second half.

Nicole and Kezia Martin scored all 10 points for the Lady Jays in the quarter, all coming in and around the paint.

Those were the only 2-point field goals the Lady Jays had in the game as they shot 9-of-27 from 3-point range.

“Nicole did a great of jump starting our team,” Meyer said. “She made some plays.”

Jefferson City was able to cut down on the turnovers which have plagued them all season. It committed just 13 Monday night.

Foster led the Lady Jays with 13 points. Stegeman added three 3-pointers.

Sharp led Smith-Cotton with 16 points and four 3-pointers. Smith-Cotton shot 26 percent from the field and made just four two-point field goals.

Now the Lady Jays face a tall task against top-seeded Rock Bridge. The Lady Bruins beat the Lady Jays handily twice this season.

But Monday night, the Lady Jays played like a team that had no intention of giving up what has been a difficult season.

“It’s probably because no pressure on us and nothing to lose coming in,” Meyer said. “But it’s been so long since we had won. Our kids saw it, they didn’t want to let one slip away so they did everything they could.”

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