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story.lead_photo.caption Kara Daly of Jefferson City looks to make a pass to a teammate during Friday's game against Hickman at Rackers Fieldhouse. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

It's a matchup worthy of a tournament title game.

Instead, it will come in the semifinals — No. 1 vs. No. 1.

The Jefferson City Lady Jays, the top-ranked team in Class 5, opened play Friday afternoon in the Jefferson Bank Holiday Hoops Classic with a 62-27 victory against the Hickman Kewpies at Rackers Fieldhouse.

The Deer Creek Lady Antlers, the top-ranked team in Oklahoma's largest classification, closed play Friday night in the Classic with a 71-35 victory against the Eureka Lady Wildcats.

The Lady Jays (8-0) and Lady Antlers (6-1), from Edmond, Okla., will square off in the Classic semifinals at 5:30 p.m. today.

"They are as good as advertised," Lady Jays coach Brad Conway said. "It's a good challenge for us, we're going to find out areas we are efficient in and areas where we need to put in some work.

"We're going to have to play one of our better games."

Jefferson City claimed its spot in the semifinals by dominating its traditional rival nearly from the opening tip.

Hannah Nilges drilled a 3-pointer just seven seconds into the game to give the Lady Jays the lead. Hickman freshman Maci Kuchta answered with a 3 of her own on the Kewpies' first possession to tie the score.

Jefferson City scored the next five points in the ensuing minute to take the lead for good as the Lady Jays held a 20-10 advantage the end of the first quarter.

Kara Daly had six points in the first quarter for Jefferson City, while Nilges and Hannah Linthacum added five each.

"Any given night, we have four or five kids who can lead us in scoring and that makes it difficult for other teams to decide how they are going to defend us," Conway said.

The Lady Jays pulled away in the second quarter, closing the half on a 9-3 run to take a 36-17 lead into the break.

Jefferson City dominated on the boards in the half, finishing with a 25-10 edge on the boards.

"One of our keys was we had to dominate the boards, then get out and get down the floor," Conway said. "At times, we did did that. We forced them into some things with our tempo, make them make some decisions before they were quite ready to do that."

The Lady Jays extended their lead to as many as 29 points in the third quarter, that coming on a basket by Laurine Shoki in the final minute that made it 54-25.

"Laurine has stepped up and done some pretty solid things," Conway said.

Jefferson City has just four players on its bench and they all played the entire fourth quarter, along with either Sarah or Hannah Linthacum.

"For the most part, they did fine," Conway said. "Defensively, they played a little better than I thought they might. Offensively, they executed pretty well, we just didn't knock down some shots."

Those were some key minutes, not just for the Classic that has three games in three days, but for the remainder of the season.

"We need to develop a bench," Conway said. "We've already had some games where we've had some foul trouble and we've had to steal some minutes here and there.

"Our bench is a work in progress, but it's moving in the right direction."

Kuchta finished with 15 points to pace Hickman (2-5), who will play Eureka in the loser's bracket semifinals at 2:30 p.m. today.

"(Kuchta) has really developed as a player and we knew she was the one who was going to initiate things on the offensive end for them," Conway said.

Nilges led four Lady Jays in double figures with 14 points. Hannah Linthcum added 13, while Sarah Linthacum and Daly chipped in with 12 points each.

Playing a game like tonight's against a quality opponent like Deer Creek isn't a bad thing this time of the season.

"No, no," Conway said. "I told the girls this is a chance to see where we're at and get better."

The Classic will conclude with four games Sunday.

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