Coaches are continually harping on the need for a complete-game effort, and the Jefferson City Jays got one of those Thursday afternoon.
The Jays didn't get their first lead until there were slightly more than two minutes remaining, but once they did, they held on and captured a 56-52 win over Bixby (Okla.) in the fifth-place game of the Mike Kehoe Great 8 Classic.
The Spartans raced out to an 11-2 lead in a little more than three minutes of play and seemed poised to break the game open.
But the Jays outscored the Spartans 54-41 the rest of the way and captured the victory at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"Defensively, with the exception of some spots, I think we played pretty consistently, and that certainly puts a smile on our faces," Jefferson City coach David Fox said.
The Spartans hit their first five shots from the field, while the Jays started 0-of-4 and had four turnovers on their first six possessions. Fox said the Jays simply had to weather the storm.
"Regardless of what happens on the offensive end, if you can play good team defense, you've always got a chance, and you saw that today," he said.
Playing their third game in three days, the Jays looked to have some tired legs early on, so Fox went to his bench early and that sparked a mini-run that got the Jays to within 11-7.
"Our bench was huge, and it was (Wednesday against Blair Oaks), and (Tuesday) against West Creek," Fox said.
The Spartans got some momentum back when they drilled a 3-pointer to end the first quarter, and they took their biggest lead of the game at 26-14 with 2:19 left before halftime.
But a 3 by Brendan Jackson sparked an 8-2 run to close the half for Jefferson City, and the Jays were within 28-22 at the break.
"Our kids grew up a little bit this week," Fox said. "We talked about composure, dealing with adversity and stretches that give us every opportunity to let (the lead) go from 12 (points) to 20 and it's game over.
"But we're starting to see some leadership evolve, and that's one of the reasons we like to play over the Christmas holiday."
The teams played to a 13-13 standstill in the third quarter, as Paul McMahon pumped in 10 of his game-high 19 points to help Jefferson City stay within 41-35.
The Jays kept clawing their way back and finally took their first lead with 2:05 left when Jackson canned a 3, on his way to 17 points for the contest.
After a Bixby bucket, Jefferson City took the lead back for good on a McMahon 3.
Clinging to a two-point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining, Jefferson City's Billy Brehe blocked a Bixby shot in the lane to preserve the win. That was part of a big game for Brehe, as he had 14 points and a team-high six rebounds.
"Billy stepped up and played huge minutes for us," Fox said. "It was great to see."
The Jays had a huge free-throw advantage in the win, as they made 23-of-32 from the line, while the Spartans made 8-of-15. Fox said it was helpful to score with no time running off the clock while trying to rally.
"It also gave us some rest, those little things you think about," he said.
Stephen F. Austin recruit Jacob Parker had 16 points to pace Bixby (5-3), as he was the only Spartan in double figures.
Jefferson City (4-4) will return to action Thursday in the Joplin Tournament, opening at 4:30 p.m. against Francis Howell.