The Blair Oaks Falcons like to play inside-out.
On Friday night, the Jefferson City Jays shut that down.
“I thought our kids executed and stuck to a game plan,” Jefferson City coach Tony Phillips after the Jays held off the Falcons for a 55-53 victory at Fleming Fieldhouse.
The Falcons only led for 30 seconds, but had a chance to win or force overtime.
Down 54-53 with :06.9 left, Blair Oaks was unable to inbound the ball or call timeout before a 5-second violation.
Sterling DeSha then made 1-of-2 at the free-throw line with :05.8 remaining to make it 55-53.
Blair Oaks in-bounded the ball to Brysan Jeffries, who got it to Quinn Kusgen for a mid-range baseline jump shot that bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“I thought we got a good look at the end,” Blair Oaks coach Ryan Fick said. “Obviously that shot is magnified. I thought we had some good looks, we created some turnovers there in the last couple minutes where we got good looks. But it all comes back to, until we start having a sense of urgency and taking care of the basketball and valuing every possession, we’re going to struggle offensively.”
Blair Oaks trailed by as many as eight in the fourth quarter, but got within three at 50-47 when Luke Northweather got open for a layup.
After the Falcons forced a defensive 5-seconds violation, Carson Prenger drove baseline for a layup and Northweather made 1-of-2 free throws to tie it at 50 with 1:50 remaining.
The Jays scored the next four points, including a pair of DeSha free throws after Kevion Pendelton poked the ball away when the Falcons got the ball into the post at the other end.
Northweather answered with a bucket off an offensive rebound and made a free throw on Blair Oaks’ next possession to get Blair Oaks within 54-53 with :17.4 remaining.
Northweather had 31 points and 17 rebounds.
“We don’t have anybody to stop Northweather,” Phillips said. “I thought we made him work for everything he got.”
Michael Onunkwor was tasked with defending Northweather in the first half before DeSha took a turn for much of the second half.
The 6-foot-9 junior made 11-of-23 from the floor.
The Jays resisted the urge to collapse the post to keep the Falcons from getting 3s on kickouts. It was a lesson learned from a 68-53 loss in the Fantastic Four Tournament in December, when four Falcons combined for seven 3-pointers.
“The last time we played them Northweather had 27 and I bet he had 10 assists,” Phillips said. “We would double down on him and he would just throw it over top of us. Inside-out 3s and they hit like seven last game.”
Jefferson City scored the game’s first four points and took a 9-7 lead in the final minute of the opening quarter when DeSha grabbed an offensive rebound and scooped it in.
DeSha led the Jays with 17 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, especially on Sterling,” Fick said. “He’s gonna get his points. You can’t hold a kid like that down. But I thought we did a good job of making it difficult for him to get his points.”
DeSha made 4-of-8 shots but made 7-of-9 at the free-throw line.
Blair Oaks took its first and only lead when Northweather made a free throw with 3:08 left in the first half to make it 16-15.
About 30 seconds later, DeSha knocked down a contested 3-pointer from the wing and the Jays never trailed the rest of the way.
The score was 23-18 at halftime and 29-20 about midway through the third quarter after Steven Samuels ran in for an offensive rebound and layup.
The Jays’ largest lead of the fourth quarter came at the 7:28 mark after DeSha caught an in-bounds pass at the wing and made the 3 for a 39-31 advantage.
Onunkwor and Pendelton scored 10 points each for the Jays, who have won five of six to improve to 9-12 on the season.
“They’ve continued to improve throughout the season,” Fick said. “Their coaching staff has done a great job. Give their kids a lot of credit.”
Kusgen scored 16 points for Blair Oaks (15-4).
The Falcons will host the Helias Crusaders today. The JV game will start at 4 p.m. with the varsity to follow around 5:30 p.m.
“We don’t have much time to dwell on this,” Fick said.
Jefferson City is scheduled to host Troy-Buchanan on Tuesday.
Jefferson City won Friday’s JV game 46-35. Tripp Maassen led the Jays with 16 points.
Brayden Lehmen scored 12 points and Chase Schnieders added 10 for Blair Oaks (11-6).