It was a night to remember for Jackson as both the boys and girls basketball teams defeated rival Poplar Bluff to win the Class 5 District 1 Championship on Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Event Center.
The Jackson and Poplar Bluff girls teams have now battled for the last three district titles, while the boys faced off for the last five.
Heading into the district finals, the Lady Indians had defeated the Mules twice already en route to becoming the SEMO Conference tournament and regular-season champions.
It was the other way around this season for the Jackson boys, which fell to Poplar Bluff in the conference tournament 45-40 and lastly in the regular season 74-57.
The girls played first as Jackson was able to win its third-straight district title by defeating the Mules 43-35 as senior Kalli Mayfield scored a team-high 13 points. She also came up with six rebounds, two steals and two assists in her final game against Poplar Bluff.
“[This win] feels so good — it’s the best feeling in the world,” Mayfield said. “I knew if I didn’t [have a good performance] it would be the end for me. I wasn’t going to let [my high school career] end tonight.”
Helping Mayfield on the boards was none other than fellow seniors Alexis Allstun and Mikala “Mik” Liley, who combined for 13 rebounds as each player only scored five points. Liley has had a team-high four deflections.
Pacing Mayfield in scoring was sophomore Madison Lambert, who finished with nine points and hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Lambert also recorded three steals in the contest.
Jackson freshman Jordyn “Jo” McClellan finished with eight points to be the team’s third-leading scorer as she knocked down two 3-pointers of her own, which came in the first half.
“I thought Jordyn really helped us out in the first half making those two shots,” Jackson head coach Tyler Abernathy said. “Then obviously Madi making those two in the fourth quarter — it seemed like they tied it up, we hit a 3. They got a two and then we hit a 3. Those were just huge, and there’s nothing else you can say other than sometimes you need a few kids to make a shot. They made them.”
During the regular season, the Indians allowed Poplar Bluff junior Kiley Bess to hit a total of seven 3-pointers as she led all scorers with 25 points. Bess still managed to produce a game-high scoring total of 16 in this one, but 13 of those were from the free-throw line.
“We just wanted to make sure we were there every time [Bess] caught it,” Coach Abernathy said. “We weren’t just there, but we were an arm’s length away, and we were going to make her work all night long. She did get to the free-throw line some, but that’s going to happen.
“I just thought Kalli did such a great job of being right there the entire time. Mik and Madi did such a good job on the back end of communicating. Sometimes [Bess] can really hurt you in those corners, but they were there when she caught it.”
This forced the Mules to try and find scoring elsewhere as fellow junior Katie Pattillo paced Bess with eight points and hit two treys.
Junior Abby Turner and sophomore Emma Johnson each scored four points in the post.
Offensively, Jackson also did a nice job of distributing the ball and finished with a total of 10 assists with Liley, Mayfield, McClellan and junior Piper Guilliams finishing with two apiece. Guilliams also helped out in the 3-point game with a make of her own in the first half.
Neither team reached the 20-point mark in the first half as Jackson took a 18-16 lead heading into the locker room. It was a back-and-forth contest throughout as Jackson’s largest lead of the night was eight points at 41-33 with 33 seconds left in the game.
The Indians went up by that much as Liley hit two free throws to all but clinch her team’s third-straight district championship.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but when you play a good team like that and a great player like [Bess] I don’t think anyone expected it to be anything different,” Coach Abernathy said. “I thought defensively we did a really good job of forcing other players to make plays.
“[Mayfield] is a competitor, and I thought she did a good job. Mik’s two free throws at the end were huge, and that’s what you have to have this year. They’re seniors for a reason, and they’ve been through it all before.”
Jackson (23-4) will now face Cor Jesu (15-13) in the Class 5 Sectionals tonight, a team the Indians defeated 46-38 in their second to last game of the regular season.
The Jackson boys (18-10) will be playing in the sectional before the girls against Mehlville (22-7) as the Indians upset the No. 1 seeded Mules 62-54 to win their seventh district title in the last eight seasons.
“It was big for us — to beat them three out of four years is nice,” Jackson boys head coach Darrin Scott said. “For me, though, it’s about these seniors and underclassmen. They’ve worked their tail off — they’re good kids, and they’ve done so many good things. It’s nice to see them rewarded and win a district championship.”
Leading the way for Jackson was senior Colten Seyer, who finished with 21 points and hit three shots from beyond the arc. This was Seyer’s first year as a full-time starter.
“[Winning this game] means everything — it’s what we work for all year,” Seyer said. “I don’t know if there’s a better feeling honestly. … We came out, and we were ready to play. We had lost to them twice already, and I have to congratulate our team because we played awesome.”
Pacing Seyer was fellow senior Dalton Tollison with 15 points, which he scored all in the second half after putting up zero in the first 16 minutes of play.
“This was the first time all year I felt like we believed we should win,” Scott said. “Colten is shooting 45 percent [from 3-point range], so he shoots it well. When he had open looks, he knocked them down.
“I thought Payton [Salyer] did a great job of attacking the basket and making good decisions — Luke Reynolds did that as well. Seth [Beussink] has been playing so well the last two weeks, and tonight he was huge.”
The Indians took a 23-9 lead in the second quarter after Seyer hit a trey to force the Mules to take a timeout with a little over six minutes left in the first half. Jackson eventually took a 26-19 lead heading into the locker room.
It was the third quarter when Tollison finally scored his first points of the game and finished with eight in those eight minutes, which propelled the Indians to take a 44-36 lead.
The fourth quarter is when Coach Scott heard his player say something for the first time all year, which was, “We’ve got to get the ball to Dalton.”
“This is something we’ve preached, and now they’re saying it, which is key that we’ve grown and got to that point,” Coach Scott. “We didn’t need [Tollison] in the first half, but the second half we did, and he came up big for us.”
Tollison scored the first seven points for Jackson in the fourth quarter as junior Luke Reynolds, who finished with 13 points, hit his lone 3-pointer of the game with 2:30 left in regulation. This made it a 10-point game at 56-46 to clinch the win.