Jays get back on track with win vs. Hawklets

The Jefferson City Jays came away with a win.

And that’s all that matters to them.

After falling in four straight games and losing leading scorer O.G. Anunoby to a wrist injury two weeks ago, Jefferson City held off Rockhurst late for a 68-61 victory Tuesday night at Fleming Fieldhouse.

“I think we needed it for a confidence standpoint — proving to ourselves that we can get it done for four quarters,” Jays coach Blair Thompson said. “Tonight, we had some rough patches, but we battled through it.”

Jefferson City (14-11) led by as many as 20 with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter, but Rockhurst (11-14) outscored the Jays 33-15 during a nine minute span to cut its deficit to 60-58 with 1:25 remaining in the game.

That’s as close as the Hawklets would get.

“Coming off the loss of O.G., we kind of struggled to find a rhythm again,” Jefferson City senior Lucas Theroff said. “I think this win is good for us to just show us we can do it and that people can step up.”

Theroff stepped up as much as anybody, going 10-of-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to hold off Rockhurst, the defending state champions.

“Coach has us shoot a lot of free throws in practice, so I was confident going up there that I was going to sink them,” Theroff said. “They went in.”

Harold Robertson Jr. also had a big night for the Jays, leading four seniors in double figures with a game-high 20 points — 16 in the first half.

Theroff finished with 17 points, while Jake White added 12 and Darion Jones chipped in with 10 for Jefferson City, which was 18-of-32 from the field.

“They all did great,” Thompson said. “It’s Senior Night and all these seniors came out ready to go.”

That might be an understatement.

The Jays jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first 2:20 of the game and came out of the first quarter with a 21-6 lead.

Robertson was 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, including a buzzer-beating attempt from 60 feet, in the opening period.

“I was feeling pretty good after that first shot,” Robertson said. “I knew once I made that first shot, it would be a lot easier to start making them.”

Jefferson City maintained at least an 11-point lead throughout the second and third quarters before the Hawklets made their run.

Rockhurst trailed 47-34 after the third quarter, but used an aggressive full-court press to cut its deficit. And after knocking down back-to-back 3s, the Hawklets pulled within two with 1:25 remaining.

“When you’re trying to play with the lead and getting trapped — there’s a mentality we need to get past,” Thompson said. “At times, I thought we stopped attacking and we were trying to be a little passive and just run time off.

“We want them to attack, but at the same time we’re trying to play with the lead. It’s kind of a fine line and creates a little hesitation at times.”

Theroff hit two free throws and Rylin Spence, a sophomore recently called up from the JV team, followed by knocking down a pair from the line to give the Jays a 64-58 lead with 36 seconds left.

“Those were huge,” Thompson said. “(Spence) is a confident kid, he plays that way and he wasn’t scared. I would imagine throughout the course of his career he’ll find himself in that situation, so I was glad to see him get those to fall tonight — not only for our sake, but for his.”

Theroff hit two more from the charity stripe and put the icing on the cake with a wide-open layup in the closing seconds to give Jefferson City its first win since knocking off Marquette on Feb. 7.

“Beating good teams is not easy,” Thompson said. “When you get a good team who gets desperate like Rockhurst did tonight, where they could send the house and take those chances, we have to deal with a lot of pressure. We’ve done that for the last three games and 90 percent of practices have been dedicated to the same thing.

“We’ll get better at that and I think we got a little bit better tonight. I’m just proud that even when things didn’t go our way, that we kept battling.”

Patrick Geha scored 19 points to lead the Hawklets, who were 20-of-54 from the field and 17-of-26 from the free-throw line.

Jefferson City was 27-of-35 from the stripe, but the Jays committed 14 turnovers and were outrebounded 30-20 — 15-4 on the offensive glass.

Regardless, Jefferson City is going into district play with some momentum. The Jays are the No. 3 seed and will take on No. 2 seed Rock Bridge, the ninth-ranked team in the state, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Rock Bridge.

“I just told them in the locker room, ‘You couldn’t ask for a better opportunity,’ and that’s the way we’re going to look at it,” Thompson said. “We need to be who we are. We need to play hard and scrap and pay attention to detail as far as the game plan goes.”

Added Robertson: “It’s good to win like this going into districts, knowing we have a hard team that’s coming up. It gets everybody’s confidence back up.”

The Rockhurst junior varsity team claimed a 63-38 win against the Jays in the opener Tuesday night.

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