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Lady Jays open season with improvement in mind

It wasn’t the best of basketball seasons for the Jefferson City Lady Jays.

They’re doing their best to not go through anything like last season again.

“Nobody has forgotten it,” Lady Jays coach Shane Meyer said as Jefferson City prepares for tonight’s season opener at Sullivan. “It was tough, it was hard.”

Facing one of the toughest schedules in the state, the young Lady Jays struggled to a 3-24 finish.

“I think we know where our downfalls were as a group and we’ve decided not to do that again,” Meyer said.

It started with a team meeting the day after the final game.

“We laid out some expectations and since they’ve come back, they’ve done a very good job of meeting those,” Meyer said. “We have a cohesive group that is willing to battle together.”

The Lady Jays return all five starters — senior Kezia Martin (5-foot-10), junior Kaley Ruff (5-7) and three sophomores — Tayler LePage (5-6), all-district performer Megan Foster (5-7) and Nicole Martin (5-10).

“We’re young, but with some experience,” Meyer said. “We’ve played a year of varsity basketball, so hopefully the game will slow down a little bit. We really like our core group of kids, they know the rigors of a full varsity season and they’re ready to take on the challenge.”

Ali Haug (5-7) and Sidney McMillan (5-8), both juniors, figure to be the first players off the bench. Meyer added he expects good things from juniors Hannah Nikodym, Louisa Nylander and Destinee Milton as well.

“We have some kids we’re hoping will challenge some of the others for playing time,” Meyer said. “The best-case scenario for us is that they give us difficult choices as coaches.

“They may not necessarily play for 32 minutes, but they are going to have to fill a role for us.”

The Lady Jays have played an up-tempo brand of basketball in recent years. But this year, things will be slowed down a bit.

“The short version is, we have to defend better, but we also want to defend less possessions and we can’t do that playing our previous style of offense,” Meyer said. “So we’re going to try to throw it around a little more, run some more time off the clock when we need to do that.

“It won’t look pretty all the time, but we’re going to try to hang around and stay in some ball games, execute down the stretch and see what happens.”

But the Lady Jays won’t stand around with the ball on their hips, just running down the clock. They will be passing with a purpose.

“We’re not going four corners, but if it takes us a minute to get a good shot, so be it,” Meyer said. “We don’t like to have to defend for a minute, so I’m trying to convince them nobody else does either, so we will try to do that. We’re working against a lot of muscle memory from last year in doing this, but I think we’re on the right track.”

Meyer, who said he was very pleased with the preseason practices and preparations, didn’t want to make a prediction on how the new style and adjusted schedule will convert into wins and losses.

“Nobody knows how those things will turn out,” Meyer said. “But we’ve put in a lot better work and we’ll see how that pays off as we move forward.”

The junior varsity game will start at 5:30 p.m. today, with the varsity to follow around 7 p.m.

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