KING CITY, Mo. — The four-seed against the five-seed is supposed to be the most entertaining game of any tournament’s first round and the fans at the King City Tournament on Wednesday weren’t disappointed. Fifth-seeded Northeast Nodaway was able to pull the slight upset by knocking off fourth-seeded DeKalb, 45-41.
“I feel like any team in this tournament can beat anyone,” Northeast Nodaway coach Rory Jackson said.
The Bluejays got off to a great start as junior Ethan Adwell and DeKalb sophomore Cole McElfresh traded baskets to start the game, but the Jays went on an 8-0 run to build an early cushion. Senior center Dylan Vore highlighted the run with four points.
“Learning to score in the post hasn’t been easy for me, I hadn’t been a post until halfway through last year,” Vore said. “I’m starting to learn how to score down there and it is really helping us win close ballgames.”
Northeast Nodaway took a 10-4 lead into the second quarter, but after trading points, DeKalb scored seven-straight points and tied the game at 14-14. Bluejay senior Spencer Weir righted the ship just before halftime with a three and a fast-break basket to get the lead to 21-16 at the break.
DeKalb closed to within 21-19, but freshman Auston Pride scored with a baby-hook to keep Northeast Nodaway in the lead. After DeKalb scored again, Bluejay senior Chet Spire answered with a three.
Weir built the lead to eight points with three followed by a steal and layup, but then he picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench. DeKalb quickly cut the lead to 31-27 after Weir left the game.
Weir’s replacement Ben Boswell seemed to inherit the senior’s shooting touch when he came into the game. After a Vore free throw, the freshman hit a corner three at the buzzer to stretch the lead to 35-27 entering the fourth.
“When I hit that that shot, I felt like we were more in control of the game,” Boswell said.
The lead was extended to 10 points early in the fourth quarter when Adwell found Vore for a layup, but DeKalb responded with a 14-2 run led by eight points from McElfresh. The Tigers took their first lead of the game at 41-39 on a McElfresh three-pointer with 1:40 to play.
“We weren’t very mentally tough on the offensive end of the floor,” Jackson said. “We didn’t value the our possessions. We had a ten-point lead. We had to be patient and value our possessions, but we didn’t. We turned it over, we took bad shots, we missed easy shots — we had wide-open layups, open looks and we missed those too.”
Vore ended the Tiger run with a free throw and Boswell got his team back into the lead by getting into the paint and scoring. Boswell says he is getting more comfortable going inside as his freshman year rolls along.
“Last year in junior high, it wasn’t even close to as physical, so I am trying to learn to drive to the basket and just put it in the basket,” Boswell said.
The Bluejay defense locked in and forced a missed shot by DeKalb junior Darrin McElfresh before Weir fed More for a three-point lead and then Weir’s defense forced Darrin McElfresh into a travel.
“We do a drill every practice where we have a minute to stop them and if they score, we have to restart that minute, so that really came in handy late in that game,” Vore said.
Weir missed a free throw with 14 seconds to keep DeKalb within three, but Spire grabbed a steal and made the game-clinching free throw for the four-point victory.
The Jays were a very balanced scoring attack with Weir scoring 12 points and Vore scoring 10. Mitchell Sherry and Boswell each added five while Spire had four and Reed McIntyre had one.
“He was big,” Jackson said of Boswell. “With him just being a freshman, from the beginning of the year until now, he is one of those kids that has truly improved each and every day.”
DeKalb senior Zach Novotny had a game-high 13 points while Cole McElfresh had 10 and Darrin McElfresh had nine. Tyler Mattson had five points while Jared McElfresh and Josh Bomberger each had two.
The Bluejays will play top-seeded Stanberry on Thursday at 6 p.m., while DeKalb will play eighth-seeded King City at the same time.
“Coach got us pretty fired up in the locker room after that game for our upcoming games,” Boswell said. “He said to use this momentum from tonight and be ready for tomorrow because we really want this game tomorrow.”