EVERETT – The Jackson Timberwolves endured plenty of anguish last season, winning just six times in 20 tries.
But those lean times make this year’s early success feel even sweeter.
Versatile guard Drew Eisinger scored a game-high 24 points and relentless forward Dan Wishko tallied 11 of his 13 points in the second half as the undefeated Jackson High boys basketball team defeated the Everett Seagulls 64-52 Tuesday night. Jackson overcame a 36-31 third-quarter deficit to earn its sixth victory of the season in a Western Conference South Division game at Everett High’s Richer Court.
“This feels better,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said of turning the corner this season after his young squad struggled a year ago. “Winning isn’t the only thing, but it obviously makes you (feel good about yourself).”
Jackson (5-0 Wesco South, 6-0 overall) generated an 18-4 second-half run and took advantage of 17 Everett turnovers to continue its impressive turnaround. Wing Bryce Levin (18 points) helped Everett (2-3, 2-4) get within three points with six minutes remaining, but Jackson refused to collapse. Point guard Gia Luu also tallied 18 points for the Seagulls, including 13 in the first half.
“I’m proud of my players,” first-year Everett coach Aaron Nations said. “They didn’t quit. They played hard (but) Jackson just kept coming.”
After a first quarter that featured five lead changes and two ties, Jackson took a 29-25 lead with four seconds remaining in the second quarter when Eisinger drained a short jump shot. Jackson appeared to be headed to the locker room with a four-point cushion, but Levin grabbed the in-bounds pass and sank a 3-point shot from just beyond the half-court line. The stunning play juiced up the home crowd and pulled Everett to within 29-28.
“That’s definitely a deflater,” Jackson’s Johnson said of the unlikely 3-pointer, ” … but (the Timberwolves) did a good job to not let that start a downward spiral.”
Eisinger, a three-year starter, propelled Jackson with a variety of jump shots, post moves and points at the foul line. The 6-foot-4 senior continues to add new skills to his arsenal.
“He got to the (foul) line, he got inside and he made (a 3-pointer). I believe he’s becoming a really, really versatile player,” Johnson said of Eisinger, who was 9-for-16 from the field, including 8-for-12 on 2-point shots.
Jackson also got key contributions from Brian Rucker (10 points), point guard Jamie Eisinger (10 points, three assists) and Wishko, who snared 12 rebounds for a double-double.
Wishko’s all-out effort sparked Jackson’s second-half surge. “He just pumps us up,” Drew Eisinger said. “He just brings the whole team up and he works hard on the boards.”
In the midst of a scorching start, Jackson is savoring its dramatic turnaround. “We’re coming together as a team,” Eisinger said. “We’re real close.”
Everett hung with Jackson for much of the game, but poor defensive rebounding (Jackson had 16 offensive boards) and turnovers grounded the Seagulls.
“It kind of comes and goes,” Nations said of his team’s miscues. “(Jackson) put some pressure on and that made us hurry a little bit … but travels hurt us.” Everett committed 11 turnovers in the second half. As Nation said, you can’t get away with that against the suddenly surging Timberwolves.
At Everett H.S.
Jackson-Wishko 13, Rucker 11, D. Eisinger 24, J. Eisinger 10, Markovich 4, Oliphant 2. Everett-Blacker 7, Wertheimer 8, Luu 18, Levin 18, Safstrom 1. 3-point goals-D. Eisinger 1, Levin 3, Rucker 1, Luu 1. JV score-Jackson 59, Everett 52. Records-Jackson 5-0 in division, 6-0 overall. Everett 2-3, 2-4.