MARYSVILLE – In the 4A District winner-to-state game between Jackson and Meadowdale Friday night, it was clear which team had to scratch and claw its way into the last playoff spot for the Wesco South division and which team had the top seed.
There was no upset brewing, and no surprise underdog victory would take place.
The Mavericks were done in Friday night by the usual suspects – Drew Eisinger (9 points), Jamie Eisinger (12) and Brian Rucker (16) – plus solid performances from some of Jackson’s more inconspicuous players.
Meadowdale’s Robel Kidanu (right) fights for a rebound with Jackson’s Dan Wishko during the Timberwolves’ 58-44 win over the Mavericks on Friday.
Perhaps more than anything, it was the Timberwolves’ physical defense that played the biggest role in the 58-44 outcome that ended Meadowdale’s playoff dreams.
It was the third time that Jackson defeated Meadowdale this season, and it’s the first time that the Timberwolves have reached the 4A state tournament.
Jackson used a 1-3-1 zone defense that stifled the Mavericks, especially in the second quarter, when Meadowdale struggled to find both its inside and outside games.
“The only smart thing I did about that (defensive scheme) is I decided to listen to my assistant coach Joe Meagher when he suggested it might be a good defense,” Jackson head coach Steve Johnson said.
While Jackson surged towards a 16-point second quarter with smooth shooting from Brian Rucker and Dan Wishko (seven points), Meadowdale wasn’t hitting much of anything.
Sharpshooter Bryant Marsh went 0-for-4 shooting 3-pointers in the first half. He missed three in a row while the Mavericks tried to match a second-quarter scoring spree by Jackson.
At the same time, Meadowdale’s guards found it nearly impossible to penetrate and score in the paint against Jackson’s big, physical forwards, Jake Gelakoska (2 points) and Wishko.
Although the Mavericks would get more offensive production in the second half, the scoring never came easy as the team failed to find a rhythm.
Meadowdale’s leading scorers were held at or below their points per game averages except for Nero Threet, who tied Jackson’s Rucker for a game-high 16 .
Meadowdale tried to stifle Jackson’s key scorers in the second half with a triangle defense, but Jackson’s low-profile players stepped up their game.
Joe Markovich led the upsurge, suddenly awakening to score eight second-half points – his total for the night.
Desperation fouling by Meadowdale started with 5:15 to play in the game. By that time it started becoming obvious that Jackson was going home with a victory and a chance to represent the Wesco South in the state tournament.
“I’ve never been to the state tournament before,” Johnson said. “It’s a great feeling for me personally, and certainly even more so for the kids and for the school.”
Jackson plays next in the state tournament on Wednesday.
On Meadowdale’s part, they can be given credit for going farther than most would have expected.
“I’m happy that my players got to experience the tournament at this level,” Mavericks head coachChad McGuire said.
At Marysville-Pilchuck H.S.
Jackson-Markovich 8, J. Eisinger11, D. Eisinger 11, Rucker 16, Belair 3, Wishko 7, Gelakoska 2. Meadowdale-Kidanu 8, Marsh 8, Moncrief 6, Surur 2, Threet 16. 3-point goals-Rucker 2, J. Eisinger 1, Wishko 1, D. Eisinger 1, Marsh 2. Records-Jackson 21-4 overall. Meadowdale 15-9.