JACKSON — This senior class for Jackson has accomplished nearly more than any other class in school history.
A sectional title, district final appearance and most wins in a single season last year. But it was missing one thing: a conference championship.
That’s been part of the mission this season for Jackson, and it checked off its goal on Monday by defeating McClain 44-31 to win a share of the FAC title with Hillsboro for the first time since 1991.
“I’ve been lucky to have some great teammates along to way to help us build a legacy at Jackson,” Jackson senior Braxton Hammond said. “We set a goal at the beginning of the season to win the conference, and it’s amazing to see us accomplish it.”
“This win means a lot for this program, especially considering where we were when I took over years ago,” Jackson coach Max Morrow said. “There’s something to be said about doing something that hasn’t been done in 30 years. A lot of programs take these things for granted because they’re so used to it. This is all a reflection of these kids who have put in so much time to be great, couldn’t be more proud of them.”
However, it wasn’t smooth sailing in the very beginning. McClain brought the physicality and its defense focused on closing the driving lanes.
Jackson’s offense was on ice while McClain’s Wesley Potts outscored the Ironmen 7-6 as the Tigers held a 9-6 lead after the first.
Then Drew Bragg and Boston Kuhn drilled back-to-back 3’s, giving the Ironmen their first lead of the game at 12-9.
Kuhn continued to give the Tigers all types of problems, adding two more buckets as the Ironmen outscored them 16-2 in the second and led 22-11 at halftime.
“McClain punched us in the mouth in the first quarter. They were fired up since they didn’t have anything to lose,” Bragg said. “We were playing really tight, and it took us some time to kick it in gear. But we knew what we were playing which got us going.”
Already holding a double digit lead, Jackson put the game away for good with a 12-2 run to open the third, capped by an and-1 from Evan Spires that pushed to lead to 20 points as it was academic from that point.
Kuhn finished with a game-high 14 points, followed by 10 points from Bragg and six points from Hammond.
Jackson’s focus now turns towards tournament play as it returns to the court on Thursday in a Division II sectional final at home against Vinton County.
“We have to be the better team for 32 minutes, that’s what it comes down to,” Morrow said. “(Vinton County) Coach (Matt) Combs is one of the greatest in Southeast Ohio, and he’s going to have his team fully prepared. Even though we’re the higher seed, we feel like underdogs because we don’t have that rich tradition that Vinton County does of winning conference and sectional titles. But we’re going to battle and hopefully add a number to that banner.”