COLUMBIA — Jefferson City passed the ball toward half court early in the first quarter. Hickman senior Mason Murray poked it away. He then dove in between two Jays to grab the ball.
In the Hickman boys’ basketball semifinal victory on Tuesday, no player put his body on the floor for a loose ball.
What: Hickman High School (22-2) vs. Waynesville High School (24-2) in the first round of the Missouri state high school basketball tournament
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12
Where: Camdenton (Mo.) High School
On Friday, nearly every player who took the floor plunged for a loose ball.
The effort was the clear difference in the Kewpies’ (22-2) 65-51 Class 5, District 9 Championship victory over Jefferson City (14-12).
In the first half, another difference from Tuesday's game for the Kewpies was their shot-making. Senior Chris Clark and junior Jimmy Whitt each had 14 points in the first half but only finished with 18 and 19 respectively.
Coming out of halftime, Jefferson City drained a 3-pointer to bring the Kewpie lead down to six. After that basket, neither team scored for almost three minutes.
Hickman held the ball for most of that stretch, taking advantage of the absence of a shot clock in Missouri high school basketball.
"Sometimes you have to hold back your horses," Hickman coach David Johnson said. "We wanted to see if they would come out of their defense."
Hickman then went on a 13-2 run to end the third quarter and just about put the game out of reach. It was 49-32 after three quarters of play.
Murray sparked the second-half Hickman scoring spree, draining multiple threes. He carried the load for the Kewpies in the second half, finishing the game with 16 points, including 9 from long-distance.
When Clark was asked about Murray's performance after the game, he just shook his head and smiled.
“Man, Mason ...“ Clark trailed off. “We’ve been teasing him about his slump. And he finally got out of it.”
Murray, Clark and the Kewpies are scheduled to begin the state tournament next week. A similar effort will be needed for the rest of the postseason.
"We'll hit the floor if we need to," Murray said with a laugh.
Supervising editor is Wade Livingston.