TACOMA – Jackson’s Big Three weren’t going to go two-and-out in their first trip to the state tournament.
Led by the 65 combined points of senior Drew Eisinger and juniors Brian Rucker and Jamie Eisinger, the Jackson High School boys basketball team earned its first Class 4A state-tournament win Thursday in the Tacoma Dome, beating Cascade 76-65 in overtime. The Timberwolves won a 3A tournament game in 1997.
The win sends Jackson (22-5) into an 11 a.m. game today against Kentwood (22-5).
“To answer the bell and come out and outscore them by 11 in overtime, I’m really, really proud,” said Jackson coach Steve Johnson, whose team won the overtime period 15-4. “I think that shows a lot of toughness. And that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
The season ended for the District 1 champion Bruins (20-5) and four senior starters.
When Cascade coach Kevin Rohrich was asked what he told his team during a prolonged grieving session, emotions got the best of him.
“Just to keep this game in perspective,” the teary-eyed coach said. “It’s OK to hurt right now. But the pain will go away. The memories will stay. All the success we’ve had: two league championships, a district championship, making it to state.”
The win was bittersweet for Johnson, who coached Rohrich at Woodinville.
“I just told him I was really proud of him,” Johnson said. “The guy was 1-19 three years ago. He stayed the course (and) didn’t give up on himself.”
Drew Eisinger led Jackson with 27 points, five steals, four rebounds, three assists. “I just think he’s an unbelievable player,” Johnson said of Eisinger, the lone Timberwolve to play all four years under Johnson.
Drew Eisinger had six points and his brother Jamie (19 points) had four during the extra period.
“They’ve got a lot of firepower,” Rohrich said. “They’re tough to defend. Their three guards are great basketball players.”
Meanwhile, the Bruins went cold from the field and had two of their 15 turnovers in the extra period. Marcus Guffey, a 6-foot-8 senior who scored 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds, scored Cascade’s only two baskets in overtime. “Shots weren’t going down,” Rohrich said. “And we made some big turnovers.”
Cascade struggled from the perimeter throughout the game, making just eight of 26 3-point attempts.
The Bruins led 22-14 after one period on the strength of a combined 18 points from guard Mike Matson, who finished with a team-high 21 points and game-high eight assists, and Guffey.
“We couldn’t find an answer defensively,” said Johnson, who was forced to switch from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone in the second quarter.
Jackson rallied in the second quarter and eventually took its first lead at 31-30. The Timberwolves led by three points at the end of the third quarter.
The Bruins rallied to tie the score 55-55 with 4:20 to play.
A 6-1 run by Jackson was followed by two Dirk Snel free throws for Cascade. After Jackson missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, Matson drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 48 seconds left to tie the score at 61.
Jackson used 45 seconds in its final possession of regulation before Drew Eisinger missed a 3-foot floater in front of the basket, sending the game into overtime.
At the Tacoma Dome
Cascade-Matson 21, Hilliard 8, Snel 5, Guffey 20, Carter 11. Jackson-J. Eisinger 19, D. Eisinger 27, Rucker 19, Markovich 1, Wishko 8, Gelakoska 2. 3-point goals-Matson 5, Hilliard 2, Snel, D. Eisinger 3, Rucker 3, J. Eisinger, Wishko. Records-Cascade 20-5 overall. Jackson 22-5.