CONCEPTION JUNCTION, Mo. – The Jefferson Eagles came into Thursday night’s matchup with the South Holt Knights winners of six-straight. During that stretch they have held opponents to an average of 23 points per game and that average got even better with a 38-17 win over the Knights.
“Our girls work together, if someone misses and we’re in man then someone else has stepped up to cover the ball and we just work well together,” Jefferson forward Ashley Mattson said.
The Eagles’ recent offensive struggles continued in the first half against the Knights. Jefferson missed its first five shots of the game. Mattson finally broke the streak to give the game its first basket.
Offense was hard to find on both sides of the court, but it was the front court that had the most success on both sides. For the Knights, it was Grace Cotton who knocked down South Holt’s first basket. Cotton had four of the Knights’ 10 first half points.
Jaclyn Pappert scored the second basket of the night for the Eagles, but the Knights’ Chloee Prussman answered that basket with one of her own. Jefferson made just two of its first nine shots and four of 13 overall in the first quarter. Mattson and Jaclyn Pappert were responsible for all eight of the Eagles’ first quarter points.
The second quarter was even less offensive for both teams. South Holt scored the first four points of the quarter to tie the game at 8-8. Jefferson found little to no rhythm on offense, going scoreless for the first six minutes of the quarter. Mattson ended the streak with a 2-pointer at the two-minute mark. South Holt tied the game at 10 with 45 seconds left in the half. Mattson added the final points of the half with a 2-pointer as time expired — giving them a 12-10 halftime lead.
“That’s why you focus a lot of attention to the defensive side of the ball because if you’re playing good defense when you’re shooting poorly, you can kind of hang around,” Eagles coach Tyler Pedersen said.
The Eagles played like a different team in the third quarter. Jaclyn Pappert scored nine of Jefferson’s 15 third-quarter points. Jefferson started the quarter with a 6-0 run and finished the quarter by outscoring the Knights 15-2. Mattson and freshman Stephanie Turpin added three points each in the Eagles’ third quarter run.
“We worked it around more than we did in the first half when our shots just weren’t falling,” Mattson said. “We played with a little more confidence and we just kept doing what we did in the first half and the shots finally fell.”
The run continued to start the final quarter. Pappert added a free throw that was followed by back-to-back buckets from Mattson and Malia Collins. Pedersen and his team pride themselves on playing good defense and it was strong defense that allowed just eight points through the second and third quarters.
“It’s a focus and a mindset, it takes players that understand the importance of playing good defense,” Pedersen said. “After you understand that importance, you have to be willing to put in the effort.”
Cotton made her fourth and final basket of the game to end the run, giving her eight points for the Knights. Pappert added four more points to end the game and senior Ashley Riley added a 2-pointer to cap off the Eagles’ win. Pappert led all scorers with 20 points.
The seven-game winning streak will be put on hold until after the holiday break as the Eagles won’t play again until they travel to Osborn on Jan. 4.
“We’ve been in a bit of a shooting slump and right now is a great time to be in a slump because we have a break,” Pedersen said. “We’ve got five days off and then we’re going to get back in the gym and I have complete confidence we’re going to come back and shoot the ball much better than we did.”