Jays edge Crusaders in two overtimes

Seth Stegeman of the Jays puts up a shot against the defense of Casey McCollum of Helias during the third quarter of Tuesday night's game at Fleming Fieldhouse.

Seth Stegeman of the Jays puts up a shot against the defense of Casey McCollum of Helias during the third quarter of Tuesday night's game at Fleming Fieldhouse. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

Talk about two evenly matched teams.

For the second time this season, the Jefferson City Jays and the Helias Crusaders locked horns.

For the second time, the game went to two overtimes.

And for the second time, the game was decided by two points.

The Jays got a bit of revenge Tuesday night at Fleming Fieldhouse, slipping past the Crusaders by a 55-53 margin. That avenged Jefferson City’s 70-68 loss to Helias in December in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic.

So when you do the math, the Jays and Crusaders have played a total of 80 minutes this season, and they’re deadlocked at 123 points apiece.

“That’s nuts,” Jefferson City coach Blair Thompson said. “I know (Helias coach Josh Buffington) feels the same way, but I’m glad we don’t do that again this year. We’re going to die early deaths.”

Helias had come into the game having won seven straight in the series and nine of 10, but the Jays have started a fresh streak of their own.

“I respect coach Buffington and his whole program, it’s a class deal over there, but I couldn’t be happier for my guys,” Thompson said. “I haven’t been in a locker room that excited in very long time.”

Regulation ended with the score tied at 47, and that’s when points started to get very hard to come by. Each team scored four in the first four-minute overtime and the Jays had a 4-2 advantage in the second bonus frame.

“It’s a tough one to swallow right now,” Buffington said. “There’s so many plays you can look back on late in that game and say were missed opportunities for us to win that game.”

Each team had a big offensive quarter in regulation, while the other two frames were very even.

Helias had the better of play in the first quarter, using a 14-0 run to spark the Crusaders to an 18-11 edge by the end of the period. Eleven of the points in that spurt came after Jefferson City defensive stopper Darion Jones went to the bench with two early fouls.

“They came out early and executed, while we got in foul trouble a little bit,” Thompson said.

Isiah Sykes had 10 points for the Crusaders in the stanza, shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the field.

Helias then had a slim 13-12 edge in scoring in the second quarter and took a 31-23 edge into the locker room.

“We didn’t like the tempo early in the game — we thought we were rushing things offensively, which is expected in a big game,” Thompson said. “We were putting the ball on the floor way too much. Once we calmed down on the offensive end, we were able to get at least get some decent looks, not great ones.”

The Jays’ big quarter was the third, where they outscored the Crusaders 15-6. Both teams struggled with their shooting in the frame, with Jefferson City’s 5-of-15 being just slightly better than Helias’ 2-of-10.

Both teams got tentative in the fourth quarter, seeming to want to avoid making mistakes rather than trying to make plays. The Crusaders outscored the Jays 10-9 in the frame to force overtime, and the Jays missed a jumper as time expired, that coming after they called three timeouts in a span of 7.4 seconds trying to set up a winning play.

“The entire second half we were outplayed,” Buffington said. “We were off-balance and we didn’t make the clutch plays down the stretch when we needed to in order to finish it out.”

The Jays blocked a shot at the end of the first overtime that could have won it for the Crusaders, then blocked a 3-pointer at the end of the second extra session. It was part of a defensive show in the two overtimes that saw a total of 14 points scored by the two teams in eight minutes.

“Both of us were scheming a little bit defensively, which takes you out of the day-to-day execution you’re used to offensively,” Buffington said.

The Crusaders scored the first two points of the second overtime on free throws by Sykes before Jake White hit a short jumper for the Jays to tie it.

After a turnover by Helias with :28 left, the Jays’ O.G. Anunoby got fouled with :07.0 left and canned both free throws to decide it.

“The phone rings (Tuesday) with a lot of alumni wishing the team a lot of luck and you just know how much it means to people,” Thompson said. “It hurts to lose, it feels good to win. We’ve been on the bad end of this thing for a couple years and it was good to step up and get one.”

Anunoby paced the Jays with 15 points and eight rebounds, while White chipped in with 11 points.

Sykes dropped in a game-high 21 points, while Hale Hentges racked up a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Jefferson City (10-6) returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday when it hosts Waynesville, while Helias (10-3) will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Fulton.

In Tuesday’s JV game, Jefferson City posted a 42-41 victory.

Helias won the freshman game 46-45 in triple overtime. Sam Heckart paced the Crusaders (11-5) with 12 points, while Jake Burnett added 11.

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