Shane Meyer and Dan Ridgeway began prognosticating before Jefferson City's third-place game against St. Joseph Benton in the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational.
Ridgeway, the Lady Jays' assistant coach, made a comment that proved prescient.
"It was kind of funny," Lady Jays head coach Meyer said. "My assistant and I had talked about predictions before the game. He said, "First one to 36 will win.' He looks fairly smart at this point. He kind of knows everything. He proved to be a fortune-teller today for sure."
Benton outlasted Jefferson City 36-33 in a defensive standoff Sunday afternoon at Rackers Fieldhouse.
"I thought our kids battled," Meyer said. "Unfortunately we just went through some stretches where we struggled to put the ball in the basket, and ultimately that (was the difference). ... Our kids battled on the defensive end. We did some really good stuff on that end of the floor. If we just could have scored a little more consistently, we probably could have come out on top."
Megan Foster scored eight of her game-high 14 points in the opening quarter as Jefferson City took a 12-8 lead. The sophomore guard reached double figures when she stole a pass and took it the length of the floor to give Jefferson City a 19-17 advantage late in the second quarter, a bucket that capped the scoring for the opening half.
Finding the bottom of the basket proved a little tougher in the second half.
Jefferson City recorded just three made field goals in the final 16 minutes.
"They're just really well-coached," Meyer said of Benton's defensive effort. "They really understand how to guard the basketball. They do a great job with their help defense. You look at their kids - (Mallory McAndrews, Lucy Mollett and Daejah Bernard) - they can all move laterally. Their big kids aren't big but they battle and they're physical, they understand positioning. They just do a real good job with their overall team defense."
Benton didn't have much more success, hitting just four field goals in the final half.
The Lady Jays held a 25-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"That's the team we are," Meyer said. "We're going to try to hang around and be scrappy and make some things happen in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately Benton made a couple more happen in the fourth quarter."
A layup from Kezia Martin handed the Lady Jays a 27-23 advantage with 6:45 to play. Benton responded with five straight points, two free throws from Bernard and a 3-pointer from Lindsay Doolan.
Tayler LePage hit a free throw to knot the game at 28 with 4:49 left. After the teams exchanged scores to tie the game at 30, Benton hit all six of its free-throw attempts down the stretch to secure the win.
Down 36-32, Foster hit the first of two free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining. She missed the second one, but Nicole Martin skied for the rebound. She ended up missing a layup attempt through contact, but no foul was called.
"We were actually trying to make it," Meyer said of the second free throw. "We look kind of smart as it turns out. We were going to try to make (the free throw) and then try to make something happen with a press situation. We get a miss and Nicole had a chance. I was kind of praying that whistle was going to blow. Unfortunately it didn't for us."
McAndrews paced the Lady Cardinals with 12 points, although it came on 2-of-11 shooting. McAndrews had canned seven 3-pointers on her way to 24 points in a semifinal loss to Hickman on Saturday night.
"We knew she was a big-time focus for us," Meyer said of McAndrews. "We were willing to sacrifice a little bit of our team defense with some help and things to just have Tayler (Le
-Page) and Alli (Haug) run with her and try to be as big a pest as we could.
"To her credit she still knocked down a couple even though we didn't want to give up any. Those two did a great job. That kid moves quite a bit. It's not like she just hangs out and gets open looks, that kid is always on the move, setting a screen, getting a screen. That's a tough defensive assignment. Those kids did a really good job."
Benton improves to 6-1 on the season.
Jefferson City (4-6) travels Jan. 4 to Springfield Parkview.