In the first half, the tempo was just as the Jefferson City Jays wanted it.
In the second half, it was just as Hazelwood Central wanted it, and the Hawks' half was just a bit better.
The Hawks ramped up their defense after intermission Friday night, scoring 47 points in the final two quarters, and rallied for a 69-62 win at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"If you're going to be successful against Hazelwood Central, you can't give up transition points, I don't care who you are," Jefferson City coach David Fox said. "The first half, I'd say we gave up less than five easy transition buckets. Not having a chance to look at the film, I'd say we probably gave up a dozen in the fourth quarter alone."
That quarter was a wild one, as the Hawks outscored the Jays 28-23, building on their 41-39 lead after the third period.
The Jays hit an impressive 9-of-13 shots in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks countered by making 8-of-9 and connecting on 11-of-17 from the free-throw line.
Jefferson City took its final lead when Paul McMahon canned a pair of free throws to make it 47-46 with 6:15 remaining. But Hazelwood Central got a layup immediately after that, and when the Jays turned it over on their next two possessions, the Hawks gained momentum.
Jefferson City did knock the lead down to two twice coming down the stretch, but could never get over the hump.
"This can be a teaching point for our guys - how we handled some late-game situations and how did it get away from us," Fox said. "What did they do to us to create some of the problems we had offensively late in the game?
"Still, they never gave up. It was a three-point game with less than a minute left to go."
The game, which featured nine ties and 12 lead changes, was close from the start. The Hawks led 15-13 after one period, but the Jays put the clamps on during the second quarter. In that frame, Jefferson City held Hazelwood Central to 3-of-16 shooting.
"And we rebounded and were patient on offense," Fox said.
But the Hawks got back on track at the start of the second half, hitting their first five shots - a jumper in the paint, two dunks, a 3-pointer and a layup.
"I don't know that we'll play a more active team this year," Fox said. "They're very good."
Hazelwood Central eventually outscored Jefferson City 19-11 in the frame, setting up its big fourth quarter.
"We want to win games like this," Fox said. "We're tired of being in position to win it. We want to cross the line and make a statement and beat a really good team like Hazelwood Central."
Hazelwood Central's B.J. McLaughlin led all players with 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Trae Anderson added 17 points.
McMahon led a balanced Jefferson City attack with 18 points. Brenden Jackson tossed in 14, Dan Ajuzie had 12 and Kody Walker had eight. Billy Brehe pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Hazelwood Central improved to 6-0 with the win, while the Jays dropped to 2-2. Jefferson City will return to action Thursday when it hosts Marquette at 6:30 p.m.