SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Jefferson Eagles basketball program has a rich and storied tradition. Next year, the Eagles are set to transition as they join with South Nodaway to form Platte Valley basketball, but the 2018-19 Eagles sure did that tradition justice on Saturday night.
“We talked a lot these last couple weeks,” Jefferson coach Tim Jermain said. “Grandparents wore that uniform, parents wore that uniform, brothers, sisters — we know that the Jefferson uniform, so to speak, is kind of coming to an end. We want to put it to rest the right way.”
Past and present Eagles had plenty to be proud of following Jefferson’s 75-65 victory over top-ranked Dora in the Class 1 Show-Me Showdown at JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo.
“It feels good to send this program out the right way — the way it deserves,” Jefferson senior Koby Stoll said.
Just as they had against Linn County in Friday’s semifinals, the Eagles (28-4) exploded out to a fast start. After Dora opened the scoring, Jefferson answered with a 6-0 run sparked by a three-pointer from Steven Chor.
“Confidence is an amazing thing,” Jermain said of Chor. “He has done a great job.”
Dora answered right back to tie the game, but another three from Chor kicked off a 15-4 run to end the first quarter. Nathan Jermain added a three of his own and Dalton Luke beat the first-quarter buzzer with a corner three for the 21-10 lead.
“We came in with a lot of confidence and played our game,” Jefferson junior Chase Farnan said.
Farnan put Jefferson in front 14 points with a three-point play to kick off the second quarter, but the Falcons weren’t going down easily and behind Mason Luna and Isaac Haney, they clawed back into the game. They sliced the Eagle lead to just 31-29 at the halftime break and their crowd which had less than a two-hour drive to Springfield and severely out-numbered the Eagle fans were loud and into it.
Needing a silencer to open the third quarter, the Eagles turned to Farnan and their 6-foot-6 center went to work with the first four points of the half. The game hovered between a tie and five-point Jefferson lead for much of the remainder of the third, but late in the quarter, the Eagles turned it on.
Chor hit his third three-pointer of the game to give Jefferson a 46-42 margin, then after Haney split a pair of free throws, Stoll hit both his. Clayton Merrigan converted an and-one. After Haney went 1-of-2 again, Farnan hit a pair for a 53-44 lead after three quarters.
Haney hit a three to cut the lead to six, but Stoll found Nathan Jermain on the next play and as the pass arrived, Stoll screamed ‘Hit it!’ Jermain listened and the three put the lead back at nine.
“It is just great chemistry,” Stoll said. “We’ve been playing ball together since we were young and I have confidence in Nate every time. If he is off, he is off and we go back and play defense, but I’ve seen him hit that shot time and time again.”
On the next trip down, Haney fouled Farnan and Farnan hit both free throws for an 11-point lead. The foul was Haney’s fifth and ended his night with 18 points — 10 under his average of 28 — and 7-of-21 shooting. Chor and Luke did most of the defensive work on Haney.
“Steven has guarded some really good players down the stretch,” Tim Jermain said. “The mental part — he does a great job mentally to take away their strengths and just make it tough for them.”
From there, Jefferson was able to keep the Falcons at arm’s reach, thanks to a steady diet of Farnan and some exceptional foul shooting. The Falcons cut it to five with 36 seconds left, but four-straight made free throws from Merrigan and Stoll allowed the celebration to kick off in earnest.
“I kind of felt like the whole fourth quarter we had it under control,” Stoll said.
Farnan finished 30 points after 26 in the semifinals on Friday. He was 10-of-12 from the field and 10-of-11 from the foul line and also added four blocks on the defensive end.
“I could just tell the last week or week and a half in practice, he has been way more aggressive in our practice too,” Tim Jermain said. “He always does a great job on defense and changes a lot of things, but offensively, he went off a little bit.”
Farnan was far from a one-man show though as Chor had 14 points on 3-of-3 from three-point range. The only person shooting better than Chor was Nathan Jermain, who was 4-of-4 and 3-of-3 from three for 11 points after going 5-for-5 and 3-for-3 from three the day before.
“All my shots felt great down here,” Nathan Jermain said.
Merrigan added 11 points on 9-of-11 free-throw shooting while Stoll had six and Luke had three.
The Eagles were out-shot 59 to 26, but still managed the victory by shooting 73 percent from the field, 70 percent from three and 30-for-40 from the foul line.
For Nathan Jermain, Spencer McQueen and Stoll, Saturday’s game was a fitting end to their high-school careers.
“It is very hard to believe this is going to be my last time putting on my jersey,” Nathan Jermain said. “It feels like just yesterday I put it on for the first time. But this is the way I wanted it to go out. It feels great. There are no words to describe it.”
For the rest of the Eagles, they now begin their new futures as members of the Platte Valley basketball team, but Jefferson basketball sure left some tremendous memories that culminated this weekend in Springfield.