JEFFERSON CITY — When Shelby Mustain speaks, you should probably listen.
The 6-foot 1-inch junior from the Jefferson City girls basketball team predicted Wednesday that the Jays would defeat Rock Bridge. Friday, Mustain’s prediction came true.
The Jefferson City Jays defeated Rock Bridge 34-33 in Jefferson City to claim the Class 5 District 9 championship. After the game Mustain could hardly contain herself.
“I can’t even explain it, Mustain said. “It feels surreal.”
It was surreal the Jays even had a chance to win the ball game after their sluggish start. Rock Bridge scored the first 10 points of the game, and scored 17 of the game’s first 20 points. Mustain, who scored 7 points for Jays, saw an all too familiar site unfolding as Rock Bridge led 22-15 at halftime. The Bruins defeated Jefferson City just two weeks ago by a score of 69-40. That loss left a bad taste in Mustain’s mouth.
“We kind of remembered the past game and this was how it started off last time, and we were not going to let that happen again,” Mustain said. “We were not going to get embarrassed again.”
Coach Shane Meyer liked the fight he saw in his team.
“It’s an inner strength this group has,” Meyer said. “This team has bonded together. It’s kind of a special group for us.”
The Jays turned up their defense in the second half. Down 29-23 at the end of the third, the Jays' defense allowed just 5 points in the fourth quarter.
The Jays also got key contributions from freshman guard Monique Townson,who continuously got inside the Bruin’s defense, scoring eight points. Kristen Burnett led the Jays with 10, and combined with Townson for key scores late in the game that sealed it for Jefferson City.
With just under four minutes remaining in the game, Burnett caught the ball at the top of the key. Pressured by the Bruins defense, she backpedaled to the half court line, picking up her dribble. Bruins forward Carmen Boessen tried to put pressure on the ball, but bumped into Burnett who fell down with the ball. Boessen was called for the foul and her teammates became irate. It was not the last time a close call would go against them.
After Burnett made her two free throws, the score was 33-30 Rock Bridge. With 2 minutes left, and the score still the same, Bruins guard Chayla Cheadle caught the ball on the baseline. Cheadle felt pressure from two Jays who swarmed in to stop her. Cheadle fell down, and was calledfor traveling. Jefferson City fans rose to their feet, clamoring with applause. Bruins fans were also on their feet, but with shaking fists and disapproving glares.
With a minute and a half left in the game, Mustain found room in the paint and hit a shot to close the gap to 33-32. Down one point, the Jays forced a turnover on the Bruins' next possession.
Townson took the ballwith less than a minute left, drove by two Bruins and put up a shot about a foot from the basket. Cheadle blocked the shot, but was called for the foul. Down one point, the freshman guard walked up to the free throw line with her team’s fate in her hands. Wiping sweat off her forehead, Townson bounced the ball a few times, then put up her first shot.
With the game tied 33-33, Townson took her second free throw, having the same result.
"I just tried to zone out everybody and stay focused on the game but it was really hard," Townson said. “But I’m glad we pulled it out in the end and came through in crunch time.”
The crowd erupted. The Jays took the lead 34-33 on Townson’s clutch free throws. Meyer was impressed with his freshman guard.
“Tons of composure, ton of poise, especially coming out of a freshman to step up in that situation,” Meyer said.
The Bruins had a chance to win the game, but with 18 seconds left, senior Megan Marshall threw a pass that didn’t find a single Bruin on it’s way out of bounds. After the turnover, the Bruins were down one point and had to foul.
As the Jays advanced the ball down court, senior Lauren Coons* cut to the top of the key. After receiving a pass, she crutched over with the ball, expecting a foul from the Bruins. No one fouled, and after 12 seconds passed, Coots passed the ball to Townson who was finally fouled with 3.8 seconds left.
Townson missed the free throw, and Bruins guard Lindsey Cunningham took off with the ball. With precious seconds remaining Cunningham weaved through players who were trying not to foul her. She hoisted up a shot that missed, but it was too late anyway. The buzzer had gone off while Cunningham still had the ball.
It was all over.
Mustain was proud of her team.
“We came back, defended our home court and won ourselves a district championship,” Mustain said.