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WAYNESVILLE — The Jefferson City Jays were one possession from eliminating a 24-point deficit in the second half.

Jefferson City closed the gap to one point in Tuesday night's Class 6 sectional game against Waynesville, but the Tigers answered with free throws and defensive stops to halt the Jays' late charge for a 59-55 victory.

The Jays, who appeared in the state playoffs for the first time since 2015, end their season with a 12-15 record.

Waynesville's style of play slowed the game down in the first quarter, with the Jays holding a 9-8 lead after eight minutes. The Tigers, who averaged 45 points in their two district tournament wins, then went on an offensive outburst with 23 points in the second quarter to lead 31-17 at halftime.

Jared Hyatt then scored the first 10 points of the second half, giving Waynesville's its largest lead of the game at 41-17 with 5:39 remaining in the quarter.

Keith Driver ended Jefferson City's drought with a 3-pointer from the right wing, then Michael Onunkwor scored in the lane. Sterling DeSha followed with a layup on a putback, a 3-pointer and then a coast-to-coast layup to cut the Tigers' lead to 45-31 at the end of the third quarter.

The Jays scored seven points in less than 30 seconds midway through the fourth quarter, with DeSha finishing a three-point play, followed by two more made free throws, and then a basket from Steven Samuels. That pulled Jefferson City with 10 points at 52-42 with 3:45 remaining.

DeSha made his fourth 3 of the game with 2:27 to go, cutting the lead to 53-49. After Waynesville missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Samuels hit a 3 from the right wing with 1:41 to play, and Waynesville's 24-point advantage was down to 53-52.

Mike Lewis drew a foul on the Tigers' next possession and made both free throws. He then added a basket with 1:01 to play to push the lead to two possessions at 57-52.

Nathan Hudnell added a 3 from the left corner, the Jays' seventh 3of the game, with :18 to go to make the final margin four points.

DeSha led all scorers with 27 points, scoring 10 in the fourth quarter while going 5-of-5 at the free-throw line. Samuels also reached double figures for the Jays with 10 points.

Waynesville (15-11) had four players score in double figures, led by Tyrique Brooks, who came off the bench to score 10 of his team-high 15 points in the second quarter. Xay McArthury and Lewis each added 13 points for the Tigers, while Hyatt finished with 10 points.

Waynesville will host second-ranked Kickapoo at 6 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals. Kickapoo (25-2) advanced in the state playoffs following Tuesday's 72-60 sectional win against third-ranked Nixa.

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