The right way is the right way.
The Jefferson City Lady Jays entered the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational with one immediate goal - move to the right side of the bracket. That's the winning side.
"This is a big deal for us," Lady Jays coach Shane Meyer said after Jefferson City stopped Southeast High School of Oklahoma City, Okla., 54-28 in the opening round of the Invitational on Friday night at Rackers Fieldhouse. "Our full focus was on winning this game. Hopefully it will carry over for the rest of the tournament."
It was a little ugly early. The game was knotted at 4 midway through the opening quarter before Jefferson City closed with a 6-0 spurt to take a 10-4 advantage into the second period.
Some of Jefferson City's struggles on the offensive end can be attributed to settling for shots instead of working for better ones.
"We would have two or three bad possessions in a row and we need to make sure when that happens to come down and have a good one with a good shot," Meyer said.
It was Jefferson City's first game since Dec. 14.
"I think our two-week layoff without a game showed a little bit," Meyer said. "But we were scrapping out there, especially on the defensive end and that allowed us to work through some of our offensive struggles without falling into an early hole."
The Lady Jays slowly started to pull away in the second quarter, scoring the first six points to grab a double-digit lead. It was 23-8 at the break.
Kezia Martin had 12 of her game-high 22 points in the first half for Jefferson City.
"When she's active and in attack mode, there aren't a lot of kids as athletic as she is," Meyer said.
The best way to explain Martin's performance was she was "up." As in, seemingly up above everybody else for shots and rebounds.
"It's a very short description, but it says it all about how Kezia played," Meyer said.
Jefferson City led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter before taking a 35-22 lead into the final period. The only blip came when Southeast scored the first four points of the quarter, which led to a Jefferson City time-out.
"We couldn't figure out who to guard," Meyer said. "We were in the same situation earlier this year and we gave up a lead. We couldn't afford to do that again."
And he made sure his team knew it during the timeout.
"I was not real happy, I tried to get the message across and to the credit of the kids, they got it together," Meyer said. "It wasn't necessarily anything I said, the kids did it and we had less of those breakdowns after that."
The Lady Jays led by 28 points late before the reserves came in to play in the final three minutes.
The Lady Jays finished 10-of-22 from the field in the final two quarters.
"It always make your offense look better when you make shots," Meyer said.
Daevion Nelson finished with 10 points to lead Southeast (0-4).
Megan Foster added 10 points for the Lady Jays, while Martin had a game-high nine rebounds.
With the win, Jefferson City (4-4) will face Blue Springs South (5-2) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. today. Blue Springs South topped Helias 54-39 in its opening game.
"They are an athletic group that can knock down shots," Meyer said. "They run a very nice offense and if you are not disciplined against them, they will make you pay.
"We know what kind of game we need it to be, we just need to get it going that way from the start (today)."
Southeast will face Helias in a loser's bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. today.