Today’s 4A state semifinal between Jackson and Arlington isn’t just a rematch. It’s a rematch of a rematch.
The Timberwolves and Eagles will face each other for the third time this season. Jackson is 2-0 in those meetings but knows it’s going to be difficult to beat a tough Arlington team three times in one year.
“Obviously that’s hard,” said Jackson head coach Steven Johnson.
Arlington clinched the first spot in the semifinals and had the luxury of being able to scout its next opponent. Eagles’ head coach Nick Brown joked that he had heard about a team called “Jackson” but that he “didn’t know much about them.”
“There’s a team, Jackson, we don’t really know what they do,” Brown said with a smile.
Eagles star senior Terry Dawn, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds in Arlington’s 72-60 win over Richland Thursday in the state quarterfinals, hoped for a third chance against the Timberwolves.
“I want Jackson again,” Dawn said.
Jackson defeated Arlington 64-50 at Jackson High School on Jan. 11 and then again in the district championship, that time by a score of 58-42, on Feb. 15.
This time the stakes will be even higher.
“I don’t think they’ll have a false sense of confidence because our leadership is very humble, very focused,” Johnson said. “Arlington is playing really well right now, anyone can see that. I don’t think I’ll have to convince anyone to be focused.
The No. 3-ranked Timberwolves, 55-47 winners over Central Valley on Thursday, know both teams will be prepared for matchup No. 3.
“I’m happy for Nick. He’s a great guy and I consider him a good friend,” Johnson said. “But truthfully, and not to sound unsentimental, but when we take the floor, we’ll have a game plan and they’ll have a game plan. Everyone knows it’s state and we’re going to get after it.
Both coaches believe the semifinal will serve as a showcase for a pair of talented teams from the Wesco conference.
“A lot of people said our league was weak,” Johnson said. “A lot of people implied that or made little snide comments that our league wasn’t very good. But I think our league is maybe a little better than people think, at least based on the first day of this tournament.”