Cavaliers' hot start fizzles out in loss to Panthers

Jan. 12—Thomas Jefferson jumped out to a 15-7 lead but then found itself tied 18-18 during the second quarter after some of the 3-point baskets stopped falling Friday night inside Thomas Jefferson Fieldhouse in Joplin.

Sheldon pulled away from that point on and clinched a 55-43 win.

"I felt like tonight we took two steps forward again, and that's what we want to do every night," TJ head coach Chris Myers said. "We're not really focused on wins and losses at this point. Just finding a way to get better in certain situations so in the future we're able to be a little more competitive."

The Panthers used a defensive stand in the second quarter to hold the Cavaliers to just 3 points and grab a 27-18 lead at the half. Those 3 points came on a shot from beyond the arc by freshman Jack Twiss.

That stanza put TJ in a tough spot to complete a comeback as the Sheldon offense kept clicking.

"The second quarter killed us. We just couldn't find a way to get the ball in the hole. (We) took a lot of good shots — just couldn't find a way to get one in the bucket," Myers said.

Sheldon used its defense to create plenty of offense. The 18 points in the second period were highlighted by 10 from big sophomore Aiden Bogart. Bogart made four layups and added a couple of free throws from four attempts.

TJ fought back to keep the game close as three consecutive 3-pointers from Twiss and Simon Studer got the Cavaliers within striking distance during the third period.

But Sheldon stretched it out a bit in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

"It was nice to see them be able to relax after (TJ) made that run of 9 points in a row," Sheldon head coach Lloyd Hall said. "They settled in and ran their half-court set and just get it out of their heads."

Hall talked about having plenty of injuries to start the year and that holding his team back some. The Panthers are currently playing without Bogart's older brother, Shon, who is 6-foot-7. He hopes to get the physically imposing senior back by postseason play.

Thomas Jefferson is a young team that plays exclusively freshmen and sophomores outside of junior Ethan Renger. As it moves forward this year and beyond, coach Myers wants to see his team grow in their offensive abilities.

"That's the growth we have to have. We have to be able to score at all levels," he said.

The Cavaliers' leading scorer was Twiss with 16 points. The point guard made five 3-pointers and a free throw. Four of those outside shots came in the second half.

"He was just walking down the floor, pulling up and knocking it in," Hall said. "He was literally just stepping across half-court, coming up and hitting it. I started telling them to pick him up at half-court just to try and get him to get rid of the ball. I couldn't believe it."

Fellow freshman Spencer Long added 9 points for TJ.

Sheldon was led by a trio of scorers as Bogart tallied 18, Aiden Ellifrits 13 and Riley Chapman 17 as he poured in three 3-pointers. Chapman and Ellifrits are both seniors.

Ellifrits spoke about the game and being able to be a part of this team in his final season.

"I feel like the way we were able to score was move it (the ball) and then get it inside and our big guy was dominating," Ellifrits said. "I feel like it's more of a family than anything. We're all just friends with each other. It's all fun. We love to go to practice."