So close, but no cigar.
The Jackson Indians Boys Varsity Basketball team made it all the way to the Finals of the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament, but ultimately fell in the finale to the Tigers from Cape Central. They had a great showing regardless, knocking off Delta, Oran and Charleston before making it to the Championship game.
The first game of the tournament against the Delta Bobcats was absolutely bonkers. The Indians scored 30 in the first and held Delta to just five. They then trumped that ridiculous effort with an even greater feat in the second, scoring 31 and keeping the Bobcats off the board entirely. The 61-5 halftime score was the definition of insurmountable.
The Tribe didn’t let up after the break either. They poured in 29 more in the third and 19 in the fourth to squash Delta 109-16. Oddly enough, with such an intense offensive output, the scoring was very spread out. Cole Deck led the way with 14 points, Clayton Ernst had 13 and Blayne Harris had a dozen, marking the only players in double figures. Ernst also led the team in rebounds with six.
Next up was a battle with the Oran Eagles. This one wasn’t quite the bloodbath, but was still a notable victory. It started out tight with a 21-17 first quarter, but Jackson pulled away in the second with a 23-7 frame. They followed that up with a dominant third, where they outscored the Eagles 23-2 and put the game to bed. The subs came in after that and the Indians had a 75-35 victory that moved them into the Semifinal game.
Harris was a monster in this one with 24 points to lead all scorers, while Ernst was impressive as well with 16 points, a 6-of-7 performance from the line and a team-high six rebounds. Judd Thoma had 13 points and was the only other player in double figures.
The game against the Charleston Blue Jays was a much tighter affair though. It was pretty much neck and neck the entire run, but Jackson pulled out an impressive victory in the end. They were up just 11-10 after the first, and then won a 9-5 defensive battle in the second for a five point lead at the half. The third was knotted at 15-all, setting up a white-knuckle fourth. The Blue Jays won the frame 11-8, but it wasn’t enough, and the Indians held on for the 43-41 victory.
Harris led the team in scoring once again with just 11 points, but it was Thoma at the line that sealed the victory. His 5-of-8 performance was critical in the two-point victory and he just nearly missed a double-double with 9-and-11. As for the big man Ernst, he led the team with 17 boards and had nine points as well.
That set the stage for the finale against the Tigers, and it was a tight one. Jackson came out ice cold and stumbled in the first, trailing 15-4, but they rebounded in a big way in the second with a 24-10 effort to take a 28-25 lead into the half.
Cape responded after the break though, scoring 17 in the third and holding Jackson to just 10. That set up a dicey and intense fourth quarter. With the Indians down four, they muscled out 16 points, but the Tigers got the best of them and managed 18 to seal the 60-54 victory and claim the Championship.
Still, it was a valiant effort from the Tribe, and they had some incredibly notable individual achievements. Harris led all scorers with a whopping 29 points and went 5-of-10 from downtown. Ernst, padding his already impressive resume, earned a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
It wasn’t the ending that Jackson was hoping for, but they had a heck of a tournament regardless. They’ll look to get back to their winning ways and improve on their 8-3 record when they take on Kennett on January 6th.