Shutdown effort: Lady Jays ride potent defense to capture crown


    The Lady Jays beat Benton 35-27 Saturday night to win the State Farm Invitational. (Kamen Entchev/KRCG13)

    JEFFERSON CITY --- This was not an aesthetically-pleasing affair.

    Watching it, at times, was like stubbing your toe in the middle of the night.

    Still, the end result was a thing of beauty for the Jefferson City Lady Jays.

    Using a shutdown defensive effort, the Lady Jays won the title of the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational for the second time in three years --- but just the second time in 14 years --- with a 35-27 victory over defending tournament champion St. Joseph Benton on Saturday night at Rackers Fieldhouse.

    Champions ... it always has a nice ring to it.

    "This feels great, it was a great team win," said senior Micah Linthacum, who led the winners with 13 points. "Our sixth man, the crowd, they were getting engaged in the game and my teammates ... we all rose to the occasion."

    Indeed.

    "Our kids really wanted this," Lady Jays coach Brad Conway said. "Especially the seniors, because it's their last chance both here (at Helias) and in this tournament."

    This was anything but easy for the Lady Jays, who've had an easy time of it most of the season. This was only the third time in 12 games they've won by less than 20 points --- and they'd won their first two games in this event by a combined 78 points.

    "We needed a game like this," Conway said. "I told the girls that we had to give our best defensive effort tonight and I think they did --- this was by far our best defensive game (of the season). We held them to one shot most of the time; for the most part, they were one and done.

    "That was our emphasis, defend and rebound."

    Mission accomplished. While enjoying a 36-24 edge on the boards, the Lady Jays (12-0, No. 1 Class 5) held the Lady Cardinal (9-1, No. 6 Class 4) to a frigid 19 percent (9-of-47) from the field.

    Baby, it's cold outside ... but it's even colder inside.

    "This was two good defensive teams, two teams who concentrate on the defensive end," Conway said. "They caused us problems, but we caused them some problems, as well."

    We'll skip the first half, other than to say Benton led 5-4 after one quarter and Jefferson City led 12-7 at the half.

    "We were stagnant, offensively, in the first half," Conway said. "At times, we executed pretty well but overall, we struggled. We didn't finish like we should.

    "But once we kind of calmed down, I thought we did a better job."

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