It would have been easy for Jackson to fold in last week’s Western Conference South Division game against Meadowdale.
The Timberwolves were still playing without three starters, two of whom were dismissed from the team, while the third was expected back this week.
After a tight first half, the Mavericks inched ahead in the third quarter and took a 37-30 lead into the final period.
“It kind of looked like we were going to hang our heads and start to feel sorry for ourselves,” Jackson head coach Steve Johnson said.
Instead the Timberwolves rallied to cut the deficit to one point twice before the Mavericks seized control of the game and defeated the Wolfpack 58-49 in a Western Conference South Division boys basketball matchup Jan. 27 at Meadowdale High School.
“We responded,” Johnson said. “We had a chance to win it — a one-point game with four minutes to go. That’s all you can ask for is to give yourself a chance to win.”
Meadowdale senior guard Nero Threet III scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Jackson used a 9-4 run to cut the Meadowdale lead to 41-39 midway through the fourth quarter. Meadowdale then responded with its own run —15-2 — to put the game out of reach. The Mavericks made six straight free throws early on to extend their advantage.
“It was kind of a back and forth game the whole way,” Meadowdale head coach Chad McGuire said. “We made free throws down the stretch and got the win.”
The Mavericks also took advantage of their height on the boards, especially in the fourth quarter.
“That’s a tough team even without those players,” Threet said. “We wanted to crash the boards because we knew we had a height advantage over their posts.”
Johnson agreed that his team’s lack of height was a major factor in the loss.
“They started rebounding better,” he said of the Mavericks. “Clearly offensive rebounding was a concern with our lack of size. They’re an active team. They’re active on the glass. They started getting more offensive rebounds.”
Senior guard Jamie Eisinger saw a number of problems late in the game.
“Tonight overall we got outrebounded offensively and defensively,” Eisinger said. “I guess we didn’t work hard enough on defense. … We went kind of cold in the fourth quarter.”
Jackson had opportunities to close the gap in the final period.
“We had lots of chances to get it to two, get it to one,” Johnson said. “We missed a lot of pretty good looks. … We did some things defensively to get some stops, to get some turnovers. That was good, but we had a few too many breakdowns, breakdowns on the pressure, breakdowns on the defensive rebounding.”
The final score wasn’t reflective of the first half in which the two teams traded leads. The Mavericks had a 25-21 advantage late in the second quarter but Eisinger made a 3-point shot at the buzzer to trim the advantage to 25-24 at halftime.
The Mavericks appeared to take control of the game in the latter part of the third quarter. Tied at 29, Meadowdale went on an 8-1 run to take a 7-point lead into the fourth period.
Meadowdale senior guard Caleb Law finished with 11 points and senior guard Milan Moncrief scored 10.
Eisinger led all scorers with 21 points and was the only Jackson player to score in double figures.
Johnson was glad to see his team battle back in the fourth quarter.
“It’s really easy right now for this team with all that’s happened to wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for ourselves,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to do that.”
Still, the loss of two starters and the suspension of a third have been a huge distraction to the Timberwolves and has affected the team’s confidence, Eisinger said.
“It’s a little distracting and discouraging because we think we can’t win, but overall I think we can,” said Eisinger, who along with Chris Reimer are the only current two players who were starters at the beginning of the season. “We just have to work a bit harder on rebounding. That’s the biggest thing.”
More responsibility has fallen to Eisinger in terms of leadership and the opposition has keyed on him defensively.
“As a point guard I have to lead anyway,” Eisinger said. “Now it (responsibility) has doubled. … The younger players are stepping up. They’ve got to look for someone to help them out and that should be me.”
Johnson likes how his senior point guard is playing.
“He’s getting a ton of attention now. That’s just something he’s got to deal with. It’s not going to change,” Johnson said. “He’s responded really well. He’s played courageously. I think he’ll continue to respond well.”
T-wolves edge Hawks, claim 4A playoff berth
The Jackson Timberwolves came back from a seven-point halftime deficit to clinch a 4A District 1 playoff berth with a 68-67 win over Western Conference South opponent Mountlake Terrace Jan. 30 at Mountlake Terrace High School.
The Timberwolves went on a 10-2 run to open the third quarter, led by Jamie Eisinger, who finished the game with 22 points and five assists.
The Hawks went to a zone defense to stop Eisinger from scoring only to have Chris Reimer score 17 points, all in the second half, including five 3-pointers.
Jackson led by one after the third quarter and the fourth quarter was back and forth.
Mountlake Terrace’s Casey Berlin took a last-second shot from half court, but it fell short.
Karsten Strieby had a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks. Teammate Tyler Stracener added 18 points.