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story.lead_photo.caption Sarah Linthacum of Jefferson City looks to make a pass against Deer Creek in the semifinals of the Jefferson Bank Holiday Hoops Classic at Rackers Fieldhouse. Photo by Ken Barnes / News Tribune.

It was a heck of a matchup for a tournament semifinal.

Deer Creek from Edmond, Okla., was a late addition to the eight-team field in the Jefferson Bank Holiday Hoops Classic. Not a lot was known about the Antlers.

Well, it turns out they were pretty good.

Deer Creek was ranked No. 1 in Oklahoma's largest classification heading into the Classic. And they were on the same side of the bracket as the Jefferson City Lady Jays, ranked No. 1 in Missouri's biggest class.

Jefferson City won its opening round game by 35 points against Hickman, Deer Creek then posted a 36-point victory against Eureka to close the first day of the event.

It was No. 1 vs. No. 1. And not for the title.

"They are as good as advertised," Lady Jays coach Brad Conway said heading into the matchup. "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."

It was a slow start for both teams, who combined for 11 turnovers in the opening four minutes. But Jefferson City was able to settle down in the final four minutes of the first quarter, keyed by a pair of Hannah Linthacum 3-pointers to outscore Deer Creek 14-6 to take an 18-10 lead.

Despite battling foul trouble in the second quarter — the Antlers sat their two leading scorers — Deer Creek was able to hang around and trailed 24-20 at the half.

Deek Creek opened the third quarter with a 5-0 run to take its first lead since early in the game. But Jefferson City responded with a 6-0 run of its own to take the lead for good and carried a 37-32 advantage into the fourth quarter.

"The kids willed themselves to do it," Conway said. "Our execution got better."

The Antlers didn't go away, trimming the Lady Jays' advantage to two points on three occasions. Jefferson City led 41-39 midway through the fourth quarter before going on a 14-0 run in a three-minute span to ice what turned out to be a 55-44 victory.

Hannah Nilges finished with 17 points to lead the Lady Jays, Kara Daly added 16, while Linthacum totaled 14.

Jefferson City dominated on the boards, finishing with a 37-19 edge in rebounds to overcome a 27-11 deficit in turnovers.

Hannah Linthacum pulled down 11 rebounds, while Sarah Linthacum and Daly had 10 each.

The victory improved the Lady Jays to 9-0 on the season. The next day, Jefferson City got win No. 10 by besting undefeated Blue Springs South 51-29 in the championship game.

The next week, sparked in no small part by the victory against Deer Creek, Jefferson City entered the MaxPreps national rankings at No. 25.

"It's nice recognition for the kids," Conway said at the time. "It's a testament to all of the work the kids have been putting in and the way we've been playing of late."

The Lady Jays remained in the rankings for two weeks, starting the season with 13 consecutive victories before falling to Webster Groves in the Union Tournament.

Jefferson City's season ended with a loss to Rock Bridge in the title game of the Class 5 District 9 Tournament in Columbia. The Lady Jays (22-4) finished with a No. 6 ranking by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.

III

It was the third meeting of the volleyball season between the Jefferson City Lady Jays and Helias Lady Crusaders.

Jefferson City had snapped a 10-match losing streak to Helias in its first meeting in the regular season with a 16-25, 25-22, 25-14 victory at Rackers Fieldhouse. The Lady Jays then won 25-17, 25-20 when the two met later at Fleming Fieldhouse.

But meeting No. 3 was the most important of all. It was for a district title.

Jefferson City was the No. 1 seed in the Class 4 District 12 Tournament in Warrensburg, one spot ahead of Helias, which was seeking its sixth consecutive district championship. The two won their semifinals to set up a clash for a berth in the state tournament.

The Lady Jays were able to finish off a season sweep of the Lady Crusaders to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2017 with a 25-20, 15-25, 25-21 victory.

Jefferson City dropped a two-set decision to Willard in the sectional round and finished the season with a record of 29-6-2.

III

They had to work extra time to get it done.

The Jefferson City Jays were hungry for a berth in the boys soccer postseason after not winning a district championship since capturing back-to-back titles in 2012-13. The defending district champion Rock Bridge Bruins were standing in their way as the two got set to meet for the crown in Columbia.

Jefferson City led 1-0 at the half on a goal by Ethan Blake before Rock Bridge knotted the contest with about 12 minutes to go in regulation.

The two overtime periods were scoreless and the contest headed to penalty kicks. The opening round of five shooters for each team ended in a tie at 3 to set up sudden death. Both teams missed in the sixth round and scored in the seventh. Jefferson City then tallied a score in Round 8 before Rock Bridge's shot went off the post to give the Jays the title.

Jefferson City then defeated Springfield Central 3-0 in the sectionals before falling 1-0 to Lee's Summit West in the quarterfinals.

The Jays ended the season with a record of 18-6, ranked No. 8 in the final Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association poll. In the power rankings by the MHSSCA that incorporates data such as strength of schedule, Jefferson City finished No. 5 in Class 4.

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