Shots were falling for the Jefferson City Jays, they were scoring points off turnovers and they were flying around to tip passes away.
But the Blair Oaks Falcons countered with an inside-out offensive attack and liveliness on the defensive end to dominate the second half and win 68-53 in the Joe Machens Fantastic Four Tournament at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"I think once we started playing a little more energy on the defensive end I thought offensively we got out and ran a little bit, made good decisions in transition and our offense had a little more flow in the second half," Blair Oaks coach Ryan Fick said.
Jefferson City closed out the first half with Michael Onunkwor grabbing an offensive rebound and Aaron Stallings scoring on a layup to lead 33-25.
By midway through the third quarter, the margin was two. Then with :35 on the clock, Dylan Hair dropped in a 3-pointer from the wing off a kickout for a 45-43 advantage, the Falcons' first lead since 2-0.
"I thought in the second half the ball was moving, switching sides of the floor a lot more," Fick said. "I thought we were getting paint touches, not only off the pass but off the dribble, making the extra pass, kicking to shooters. We had some guys step up and knock some shots down. That takes a little pressure off of our post play when we knock some 3s down."
The score was 45-44 entering the fourth quarter, but quickly ballooned after Carson Prenger swung the ball around to Zach Herigon for a corner 3, Quinn Kusgen hit from the wing and Jake Closser splashed in a 3 in from the corner.
By the 4:28 mark of the fourth quarter, Blair Oaks led 56-46.
"Zach hit the big 3, but really I was proud of him on the defensive end," Fick said. "He brought a lot of energy and guarded well."
Luke Northweather battled inside for a pair of three-point plays to keep the lead growing. Northweather had 27 points on 11-of-13 shooting, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Kusgen and Closser each made a pair of 3s on their way to 16 and 10 points, respectively.
The Jays could hardly miss from deep in the first half, leading 8-4 thanks to 3s by Keith Driver and Kevion Pendelton.
Pendelton later scored on a floater to make it 10-8 and Sterling DeSha knocked down a 3 from the top of the key for a 17-10 lead.
Northweather scored the final first-quarter points on a pair of free throws.
Northweather battled through a trio of Jays to score the first bucket of the second quarter, but DeSha answered with another 3 from the top of the key and another long-range shot from the wing as the lead grew to 27-17 at the 5:43 mark of the second quarter.
Jefferson City limited Blair Oaks to five points in the first five minutes of the second quarter.
"I thought our defense was better," Jefferson City coach Tony Phillips said.
DeSha scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half and led the Jays with eight rebounds. Pendelton added 10 points and four rebounds, Onunkwor shot 4-of-6 for eight points and Driver added seven points.
Jefferson City made 5-of-11 from 3-point range and shot 43 percent overall in the first half.
"Ball movement," Phillips said. "Moving the ball. We were playing north-south."
Jefferson City (1-7) closes out the tournament at 7:30 p.m. today against Helias.
"There's some good things, some positives to build on," Phillips said. "And at this point, that's what we'll focus on."
Blair Oaks (5-2) will face Father Tolton at 2:30 p.m. today in the tournament.
"We're gonna have to value the basketball," Fick said. "They get out and guard."