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Kingston reaches state quarters for first time following 22-0 run

Kingston guard Cody Yates (3) shoots a baseline jumper over Jefferson forward Kaleb Weiler (40) during the third quarter of a Class 3 state sectional boys basketball game on Tuesday in Festus, Mo. (Matt King, mking@dailyjournaloniine.com)

FESTUS, Mo. — Kingston reacted astonishingly well to the type of unfavorable start that could have rattled a less mature basketball team on Tuesday night.

The Cougars went from ice cold through four minutes of action to scalding hot over the next seven, and achieved another milestone for their once beleaguered program.

Seniors Cody Yates and Mason Nelson combined for 20 points during a stunning 22-0 run in the first half, and Kingston defeated Jefferson 54-42 in a Class 3 sectional contest.

The Cougars collected the first state playoff victory in school history on their second opportunity after falling short two years ago against Bishop DuBourg.

Kingston guard Ayden Piel reacts to a made transition layup during the fourth quarter of a Class 3 state sectional boys basketball game against Jefferson on Tuesday night in Festus, Mo. (Matt King, mking@dailyjournaloniine.com)

“I’m just overwhelmed with pride for them. They have worked so hard to get here,” Kingston coach Paul Hamilton said. “To come in here tonight, on another team’s floor, in a difficult environment, I’m proud of them for withstanding that first 7-0 run by Jefferson and coming back with one of our own.”

Yates scored a game-high 27 points, Nelson finished with 19 and Kingston (19-9) advanced to face reigning state champion New Madrid County Central on Saturday.

The Kingston half-court defense delivered another superb performance, ending a 17-game win streak for Jefferson (22-6) that originated two months ago at the Central Christmas Tournament.

Both teams were well represented as fans packed the home of the Blue Jays to capacity. Jefferson gave its supporters plenty to cheer about early on.

Top scoring threats Nate Breeze and Kaleb Weiler hit their opening shots, and Cooper Frisk knocked down an open 3-pointer to comprise an initial spurt.

Kingston forced the Blue Jays out of rhythm from there, and conversely commenced a remarkable stretch of mid-range perimeter accuracy.

Once the Cougars pulled even with field goals on three consecutive possessions, Yates connected from the left elbow and baseline before attacking for a conventional 3-point play.

Kingston forward Mason Nelson (11) connects on a 3-pointer as Brady Thompson (22) screens Jefferson forward Bruce Dix (35) during the second quarter of a Class 3 state sectional boys basketball game on Tuesday night in Festus, Mo. (Matt King, mking@dailyjournaloniine.com)

The first quarter concluded in a 15-7 margin, but the Cougars were just getting rolling. Cody Yates found brother Brendan Yates open after making a steal, then buried another pull-up jumper.

Nelson took over the starring role heading into halftime while his teammates effectively limited any second chances on the glass for Jefferson.

The 6-foot-6 forward, who splashed six 3-pointers in the district title win over Greenville, sank three lethal triples to help Kingston build a healthy 33-18 lead at intermission.

“Cody has been leading us all the way through, and Mason had really come on over the last couple of weeks, shooting outstanding from the 3-point line,” Hamilton said. “He has also elevated his game in terms of defense and rebounding. We need senior leadership this time of year, and got that tonight.”

Cody Yates struck again along the baseline to establish the largest separation at 39-22 during a relatively quiet third quarter. Jefferson would offer one hopeful push in the fourth.

The Blue Jays generated a series of Kingston turnovers after Breeze rolled in a 3-pointer to mount a 10-2 run. He added an uncontested dunk before another basket made it 41-32.

“We’ve been up at halftime in our last two games, and we knew that a run was coming,” Hamilton said. “We’re battle tested on that front.”

Kingston forward Blake Juliette scores an uncontested layup against Jefferson during the fourth quarter of a Class 3 state sectional boys basketball game on Tuesday in Festus, Mo. (Matt King, mking@dailyjournaloniine.com)

Nelson answered with a timely 3-pointer from the top of the circle, and loomed large on defense by swatting two shots and drawing a charging foul.

Cody Yates tracked down a Nelson rejection in the corner, and the Cougars capitalized in transition as Ayden Piel passed ahead to Blake Juliette for a clear layup.

Kyle Whitehead came up with a subsequent steal, and Juliette attacked an open baseline before Kingston secured the outcome from the line.

“Ayden Piel and Kyle Whitehead may not fill up the score sheet, but they guard really hard and cover up shooters,” Hamilton said. “And then I thought Brady Thompson, Brendan Yates and Blake Juliette did a great job of taking Weiler out of the game and keeping him busy. Mason Hendrix and Brenden Luna came off the bench and provided big minutes. Everybody did their jobs, and we’ve now had that four games in a row.”

Kingston committed only eight fouls in the game, and made 7-of-12 free throws while yielding zero attempts to the Blue Jays.

Breeze netted 10 of his 18 points in the final period. Frisk provided 12 on four 3-pointers, and Weiler ended with eight in the final game for nine Jefferson seniors.

Hamilton attributed the recent experience of facing Greenville as solid preparation for the challenge of containing the combination of Breeze and Weiler.

“With Evens and Porter from Greenville, it was similar. A good big and a good guard,” he said. “We didn’t have to change a whole lot, which helped us out because our legs were dead. We didn’t have to go too hard in practice, and there was nothing real surprising that we saw.”

Cody Yates increased his career point total to 2,165 with at least one more contest to play.

Jefferson guard Nate Breeze (14) dunks after making a steal during the fourth quarter of a Class 3 state sectional boys basketball game against Kingston on Tuesday night in Festus, Mo.

Kingston guard Brenden Luna (12) and Jefferson forward Bruce Dix compete for a rebound during the first quarter of a Class 3 state sectional boys basketball game on Tuesday night in Festus, Mo.

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