Fulton, MO, 2/16/2022 – Hollywood couldn't have penned a better script for what happened on Wednesday night in Historic Gym. It was senior night for undergraduate assistant coach Levi Woods and players Manny Green (Decatur, IL / Saint Teresa), Dexter Allen (St. Louis, MO / St. Louis University High), Emil Spriggs (Kansas City, MO / Lees Summit North), Devonte Hubbard (Lees Summit, MO / Grandview Christian), Landon Harrison (Jefferson City, MO / Helias), Cade Combs (Harrisburg, MO / Harrisburg) Ethan Thompson (Columbia, MO / Hallsville) and Adrian Webb (Poplar Bluff, MO / Poplar Bluff). It was also the last home game of head coach Matt Mitchell's 24-year career. He came into the game sitting on 299 career wins. The stage was set and the only thing standing between the seniors, coach Mitchell and the rest of the Blue Jays having an epic senior night was the defending SLIAC champion Blackburn College Beavers. The game saw 20 ties and 22 lead changes the last of which came on a Harrison bucket with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game that gave the Jays a lead they would not give back. Blackburn had two shots on the final possession to win and then tie the game, but the Blue Jays defended them both and as the horn sounded it set off a raucous celebration as the team swarmed around Mitchell to celebrate win number 300 and a very satisfying senior night victory 71-69.
The first half was highlighted by a Spriggs basket and one that gave the Blue Jays their biggest lead of the half at 19-14 with 12:55 to go in the half. The Beavers would respond and take the lead back going up 24-21their biggest lead of the game. A Combs bucket gave the lead back to the Blue Jays at 25-24. The two teams would trade the lead back and forth the remainder of the first half until Harrison would bury a three pointer with :40 left in the half to give the Jays a 36-35 lead heading into halftime.
The Beavers would emerge from the locker room hitting from distance as they retook the lead in the opening minutes of the second half. The Blue Jays would respond as Harrison would convert a conventional three-point play. Spriggs would score a driving two and a pair of Tre Kempker (Eugene, MO / Eugene) free throws would give the lead back to the Jays at 43-42 with 16:13 left in the game. After Harrison made a shot with 14:18 left to give the Jays the lead for good at 49-47 it ignited an 10-2 spurt by the Blue Jays that saw the lead grow to eight at 57-49 with just over ten minutes to play. The Blue Jays then stretched their lead to a game high 62-51 after a Makygh Galbreath (Fulton, MO / Fulton) three pointer. Blackburn would make a run to trim the lead to one point twice in the final minute and a half when Galbreath would hit a driving lay up and Spriggs would hit a free throw that helped the Jays stave off the Beaver comeback attempt. The Blue Jays celebrated the big 71-69 victory.
Seniors Harrison and Spriggs led the way offensively for the Blue Jays scoring 20 points and 16 points respectively. Galbreath had a career high 15 points for the Jays and the sophomore forward Kempker rounded out the double figure scorers for the Blue Jays. Harrison contributed a season high 12 rebounds to lead the Jays while Galbreath chipped in 6. Spriggs continue his stellar defensive play with four steals.
The Blue Jays will be back in action in their regular season finale on the road at Fontbonne University on Saturday. The game is scheduled for a 3:00 p.m. tip off. Fans are permitted at Fontbonne as long as they wear masks.