STANBERRY, Mo. — The Jefferson Eagles are off to a dominant start this season with their defense fueling an 11-1 start to the season and just one of those wins being closer than 18 points. They continued that trend on Monday with a 67-30 win over Albany in the first round on the Stanberry Invitational.
“Over Christmas break and our first game back, defensively, I just thought we had to get back to where we were,” Jefferson coach Tim Jermain said. “Defensively, especially the first quarter in our full-court press, we were really good. We played with a lot of intensity and really rotated well.”
Albany was able to stay within 9-6 early in the first quarter, but the Jefferson press defense was able to quickly widen the gap with a 24-0 run. Senior Nathan Jermain started the run with a three and junior Clayton Merrigan followed with an old-fashioned three-point play.
Repeated steals and layups helped fuel that run with the Eagles using a full-court press and whenever the Warriors were able to break it, Eagles’ center Chase Farnan was waiting to pick up a block. Farnan finished the game with 14 points and nine blocks.
“I think the main defensive key is to pressure the ball,” Farnan said. “When we can get a lot of pressure on the ball, good things are going to happen on the backside. Our press is very effective and we just have to help each other out.”
The teams traded 6-0 runs as Jefferson began to use mass substitutes to get plenty of playing time for players up and down the roster. The Eagles took a 43-16 lead into halftime.
“It gives us a lot of confidence going forward,” Farnan said. “We played well, defense showed up, did a lot of things right and it gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
The second half allowed Jefferson to have 12 of the 13 players on their roster to score. While Farnan had 14, Merrigan added 12 and Nathan Jermain had 10 to join him in double figures. Dalton Luke had six, Koby Stoll had five, Steven Chor had four, Levi Burch, Trever McQueen, Wyatt Tobin and Spencer McQueen had three and Patrick O’Connor and Trey Holtman each had two.
“Our ability to have different people score makes us hard to guard,” Tim Jermain said. “We preach every day that the better all of us practice, the better we all get. So when they get in a game and get some experience, that helps us all get better.”
The Eagles advance to the semifinals where they will likely match up with third-seeded North Andrew, who pushed Jefferson to their closest victory of the season — 61-52 on December 18 in Conception Junction. The rematch will be Thursday at 6 p.m.
“Winning these next few games are very important to us and we just know we have to be prepared and come out to play every game,” Farnan said.
The Warriors will play in the consolation semifinals on Thursday at 6 p.m., against Worth County, unless the Tigers can upset the Cardinals.