JEFFERSON CITY — When Emily Light’s shot went through the basket, Jefferson City fans erupted and Hickman fans breathed a sigh of relief.
The final buzzer had sounded and Light’s 3-pointer left the Jays short of upsetting the Kewpies, who won an up-tempo, hard-fought game 44-43 on Tuesday at Jefferson City High.
The Jays pushed the nation’s 11th-ranked Kewpies by breaking though their press and scoring high-percentage shots. Hickman, meanwhile, struggled shooting from the outside.
The Kewpies rallied to tie the game at 35, despite making 3-of-12 shots in the third quarter, when senior guard Kaela Rorvig scored on senior forward Lauren Harris’ miss with four seconds left in the quarter.
“We got down by four in third period and I think a lot of teams could have unraveled,” Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said. “Jefferson City is a good basketball team. On their home floor. Pressure. Nerves. What have you. Our team regrouped and took control in the fourth quarter.”
In the fourth quarter, Hickman (22-1) turned to Harris, who sat out the second quarter with two fouls.
“She made us a different ball club in second half,” Mirts said.
Instead of five guards, Hickman had an inside threat. Harris scored on the Kewpies’ first two possessions to give them a 39-35 lead.
Jefferson City (14-8) proceeded to cut the Hickman lead to one twice.
The first came when center Alice Parker made a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The second came on a Brianna Culberson basket inside. The Jays had an opportunity to take the lead with about 1:40 left, but Amy Bolerjack forced a steal, drove through four defenders and scored, giving the Kewpies a 43-40 lead.
After another Jefferson City turnover, Bolerjack made the first of two free throws. Bolerjack’s sister, Jodi, rebounded the second and was fouled with less than 10 seconds left. Jodi missed the shot and the Jays’ buzzer-beater wasn’t enough.
“On a night like this when we’re down by four points in the third quarter and we can come back, at their place, it’s pretty nice,” Jodi Bolerjack said.
Harris paced Hickman with 14 points, three rebounds and four blocks. Jodi Bolerjack added 12 points.
Amy Bolerjack finished with nine and Rorvig had seven. The Kewpies committed one foul in the second half.
“Hickman didn’t fall apart,” Jefferson City coach Doug Light said. “Good girls make plays. An education for us.”
Parker scored 11 and had 13 rebounds for the Jays. Culberson scored eight of her 20 in the second quarter.
“We missed a ton of open jump shots,” Mirts said. “If we can win a game doing that, I think we are a pretty basketball team.”
Tuesday was the third time Jefferson City lost to a nationally ranked team. The Jays also lost to Kickapoo and Saint Joseph’s Academy.
“The crowd made it so fun,” Light said. “It’s great to be in that type of atmosphere and it’s a great thing for girls’ basketball.”