I was on hand Friday to watch the Washington Blue Jays set out to defend their undefeated (7-0) record against the upset minded Panthers of Fort Zumwalt North (7-4) led by standout junior guard KJ Lee. The Blue Jays will not wow you with size, but they are loaded with a team full of junior guards that can flat out get after it.  The well-coached Blue Jays play solid team defense and used good ball movement and balanced scoring to methodically guard and attack the guest Panthers. 

The Blue Jays got off to a quick start and held FZN scoreless until a three pointer by Lee midway through the quarter. Washington would use spacing and second effort plays to earn easy layups and open shots by junior Ryan Hoerstkamp and Brigham Broadbent to maintain their lead. The Panthers, however, were forced to rely on their defense as shot after shot seemed to fall just short of the mark. However, a follow up three by Lee and a basket inside by North’s senior center, Mujtaba Alkahaldi, kept things close with FZN trailing Washington 11-10 to end the quarter.

Shooting woes continued for the Panthers through the second half but fortunately their defense held up which stretched out Blue Jay possessions and allowed Washington to remain in striking distance. They ended the half trailing by five even as their field goal woes began to effect short jumpers and layups. North had great looks but there just appeared to be a lid on the rim. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays were strategic in their attack. Great teamwork and timely basket cuts allowed five different players to get on the board during the second quarter but, they were still unable to deliver a knockout blow and the lead was still in the single digits to end the half. 

Opening the second half, North seemed to get their offense going fueled by increased intensity on defense and more success attacking downhill. Lee did a great job of keeping his teammates involved moving the ball around the perimeter and finding Alkhaldi inside for a couple of baskets. Despite this effort, their scoring still couldn’t keep pace with the Blue Jays. Washington picked up their scoring pace as well and found success outside the arc behind the hot shooting hand of junior guard Zac Coulter who scored eight points in the period including two 3’s.  

At the opening of the final quarter, the 6-6 junior wing from North had seen enough. KJ Lee came out of the locker room firing from long range. With a member of the Saint Louis University staff watching on, KJ Lee went on a solo 9-0 run against the Blue Jays. The long, smooth wing sank three 3’s in a row forcing the Blue Jays to call a timeout. Following the lead of the sharpshooting wing, the Panther defenders picked up the pace.  FZN ratcheted up their pressure defense led by great on the ball pressure by senior Devan Edwards resulting in a couple of Blue Jay turnovers and a pair of easy Panther baskets.

The successive 3’s by Lee would give the Panthers a 9-0 run and tie the game at 39 each with six minutes remaining. After successive lead changes, the game would finally come down to a turnover by North with 17 seconds to play followed by a Blue Jay layup with a foul on the play. Any hopes for a Panther comeback was dashed when the Panthers called a timeout with no timeouts remaining and a technical foul was assessed. The game concluded with Washington extending their win streak to 8-0. 

Results Washington 57, Fort Zumwalt North 53, FINAL
Fort Zumwalt North: KJ Lee 24pts (6-3FG), Mujtaba Alkhaldi 11pts   
Washington:  Jeremiah Broadbent 12 pts, Zac Coulter 11 pts, Ryan Hoerstkamp 10 pts