The Junction City Blue Jays walked off the court Friday night with the 70-67, double-overtime victory over the Topeka Seaman Vikings in the first game of the season.
The Blue Jays held on to a one-point lead with 11.2-seconds remaining on the second overtime period when junior Howard Johnson was fouled. Johnson dropped the first of two from the charity stripe when Seaman called their final timeout in an attempt to ice the shooter. Johnson, un-phased by the extra time, dropped the second shot to give the Jays the three-point advantage. A loose ball was tied up for a jump ball with Junction City set for possession with 0.8-seconds remaining on the clock. The inbound pass was uncontested by Topeka allowing the buzzer to sound in the nearly empty gymnasium.
“He's our most consistent kid, even in practice,” JCHS head coach Nick Perez said. “He's level-headed, he'd be a great professional golfer. He does not let anything bother him. You know, he turns it over — whatever. Makes a shot, you can't tell — his poker face. So, we got to get our other guys to do that and I got to do better job too. I got a lot of enthusiasm for our kids, but coach Perez needs to calm down and just trust the process and trust our kids.”
The two free throws capped off a team high, 24-point night for the 6-footer.
As exciting as the game ended for the Jays, the contest started slow with Seaman taking an eight-point, 19-11, lead in the first quarter. Junction City outscored the Vikes in the second quarter to take the 42-39 lead into the halftime break.
Senior Christ Dixon led the charge in the second quarter with 12 points, including a trey from the left wing that tied the score at 38-38 before the midpoint in the quarter. Dixon would be scoreless the remainder of the game.
The missed opportunities downlow and fouls called against the Blue Jays hindered the team throughout the contest. Junction City finished the first half with four players with at least two fouls, one with three as Seaman took advantage with free trips to the charity stripe.
Luckily for the Jays, especially late in the contest, not all the Vikings free tosses ended up on the scoreboard.
“You know what, we blew it about four times — how we won is unbelievable,” Perez said. “I don't know how he won ... I really don't. I told the kids that in the locker room, ‘I was excited for them, I'm happy for them, but we made a lot of dumb mistakes. We got to make layups. You know, you're wide open — you can't miss a layup.’ Chris in the locker room said right away, ‘My fault coach.’
Chris is a senior, a leader, I told him, 'Let's do that in the second quarter when we get an opportunity to, but not one that matters like that and just lay it in and finish the game,’” he added. “You know, I'm proud of our guys. A lot of things happen that went against us, I thought, the whole game. But, we just battled and we fought through adversity.”
With the victory, the Jays will now prepare for their home opener in Shenk Gymnasium Tuesday against Topeka High. Perez said the silent atmosphere was awkward to play in Friday and expects the same thing Tuesday without the student section cheering them on.
“It was tough for us to get going,” he said. “Because, we’re use to the student body yelling and stuff. But, I was proud of our guys.”
Tip off is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday. With the Kansas State High School Activities Association prohibiting fans at games until Jan. 28, the Junction City High School media class will host the game on YouTube at www.youtube.com/results?search_query=junction+city+high+school
All games and matches this winter at Shenk Gymnasium will be at that site, while events in Fiffe Gymnasium can be seen viewed at www.facebook.com/Blue-Jay-Athletics-988551641227782
JCHS 11 31 10 9 5 4-70
TSEA 19 20 14 8 5 1-67
JCHS: Johnson, 24; Dixon, 13; Smith, 10; Ruffin, 10; Clark, 5; Tedder, 2; George, 2; Clarke-Boyd, 2; Baker, 2.
TSEA: Bonner, 15; Hyman, 12; Henry, 11; Stuewe, 11; Brewer, 8; Stallbaumer, 4; Kobuskewski, 4; Gurmley, 2.