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Jackson boys basketball advances to 12th-straight district title game

Jackson senior guard Blayne Harris led the Indians in scoring for both the district quarterfinal and semifinal games with a combined 39 points. Photo by Nick McNeal

On Saturday afternoon in St. Louis, the Jackson boys basketball team secured a spot in its 12th-straight district championship game with a comeback win over tournament host Lindbergh.

The No. 2 seeded Indians (19-9) did so with a 62-55 victory over the No. 3 Flyers (22-6) in the Class 6 District 1 semifinals after trailing Lindbergh following each of the first three quarters.

Jackson entered the fourth quarter down 44-37 to the Flyers, but it outscored them 23-11 in the final eight minutes for the seven-point win. The Indians saving grace was the free-throw line, where they scored 13 of their fourth-quarter points.

Scoring eight points at the charity stripe in the final quarter for Jackson was senior guard Blayne Harris, finishing 8-for-8. In fact, Harris didn’t miss a single free throw in the entire game (13-for-13) and ended up recording a team-high 23 points.

The only other Indian to come up with multiple free throws in the fourth quarter was junior guard Kole Deck as he paced Harris in scoring with 19 points. Aside from being the only Jackson player to make a 3-pointer with two, Deck also led the Indians scoring attack in the first half with 13 points.

Harris was right behind Kole with 12 points, though, through the first two quarters. Seniors guard Braedon Thoma and forward Judd Thoma were the only other Jackson players to score in the first half with a combined three points.

In the fourth quarter, Judd Thoma showed up big as did senior post Gavin Holdman after going scoreless through three quarters. Holdman and Judd Thoma combined for 11 points with six and five, respectively.

Like Jackson’s offense, Lindbergh’s scoring attack was primarily led by two players as Flyer seniors Zac Goss and Quinn Sunderland accounted for all but 11 of their team’s points. Goss led all scorers in the game with 27 points, hitting three 3’s and finishing 8-for-8 at the charity stripe.

As for Sunderland, he paced Goss with 17 points but was held by Jackson’s defense to just scoring four in the second half. The only other player to score more than once for Lindbergh was senior Aiden Rush as he produced six points and was also held scoreless in the second half like Sunderland.

In the quarterfinal round, the Indians won a thriller over No. 7 seed Seckman (13-14) by two points at 54-52 in a game where Jackson had not two but three players finish in double figures scoring wise. Harris led with 16 points, while Holdman finished at 13 and Thoma right behind him with 12.

To win what would be a second-straight Class 6 District 1 Championship with hopes of eventually reaching the state final four the second year in a row, the Indians are tasked with beating the district’s No. 1 seed Cardinal Ritter (17-11) in the district finals this Tuesday.

Even though the Lions have 10-plus losses, none of them have come by the hands of a team in Missouri. Cardinal Ritter is a perfect 15-0 versus in-state competition after going 2-11 against out-of-state opponents ranging from Arkansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

The Lions have won three state championships in the last four seasons, placing third at state the only year they didn’t win it all. Cardinal Ritter advanced to the district championship game by defeating both of its tournament opponents by at least 28 points (Fox 55-27; Saint Louis 68-32).

Four players for the Lions are averaging 10-plus points per game in seniors Clayton Jackson, Quenton Parker, Derrick Rivers and Nashawn Davis. Davis, Jackson and Rivers are all McDonald’s All-American Nominees as Clayton is committed to Lindenwood, while Parker made an unofficial visit to Southeast Missouri State in January.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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