By Brad Morris
CHILLICOTHE — Jackson held Logan Elm to just three field goals over the final 14 minutes of a Division II Southeast District semifinal on Saturday on its way to a 53-39 win inside Southeastern’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium.
The No. 12 seeded Ironmen (12-11) picked up their second win over a Mid-State League Buckeye Division foe in the tournament (previously beating fifth-seeded Fairfield Union 37-32 last Friday) and advance to a district final on Friday against top-seeded Waverly (20-4) back at Southeastern.
Jackson sprinted out to a 15-6 lead with a minute remaining in the opening quarter, but a three-pointer and layup courtesy of Konnor Starkey allowed the fourth-seeded Braves to trim their deficit to 15-11 entering the second quarter.
The Braves used their defensive pressure to control the second quarter, forcing Jackson into seven turnovers.
“We got off to a really slow start, but our guys eventually settled in and we used our defensive pressure to kinda get us going there during the second quarter,” Logan Elm coach Doug Stiverson said. “Our defensive pressure generated some good looks for us on the other end that our guys were able to knock down.”
Back-to-back three-pointers from Braylen Baker and Tanner Holbert tied the district semifinal at 17-17, followed by two free throws via Garret Summers to give the Braves their first lead at 19-17.
A layup apiece from Baker and Holbert completed a 12-2 run to open the second quarter and gave the Braves their biggest advantage of the night at 23-17.
Jackson countered with eight of the final 11 points of the quarter to cut Logan Elm’s lead to 26-25 at halftime.
Five points courtesy of Summers kept the Braves in front early in the third quarter and a jumper midway through the period off the shooting hand of Holbert gave the Braves their final lead of the afternoon at 35-34.
The Ironmen scored the final four points of the third quarter to kick start a closing 19-4 run to the district semifinal.
Logan Elm had an uncharacteristic eight turnovers during the decisive run and made just 2 of its final 13 (15.4 percent) shots.
“Jackson did a nice job of being active with its length and they made every shot difficult for us,” Stiverson said. “It felt like we were getting moved further and further out on the floor.
“On offense, Jackson did a nice job of adjusting and attacking the basket there in the second half.”
Another reason for the Jackson win was a massive 28-9 rebounding advantage over the Braves, which included eight offensive boards. Jackson had 16 turnovers to 14 for Logan Elm.
Baker made 6 of 8 (75 percent) shots to lead the Braves with 14 points to go with four rebounds. Holbert followed with 11 points, and Starkey and Summers added seven apiece.
Logan Miller scored a game-high 17 points for the Ironmen, Boston Campbell had 16 and Drew Bragg had 13.
The Braves finish the season at 15-7, tied for third in the MSL-Buckeye and advanced to the district round of the tournament for a third consecutive year, despite having a new starting five this season.
“Everything was kinda new for all of our guys this season, and I was proud of the way they came together the way they did and improved throughout the year,” Stiverson said. “They found ways to win and gave us an opportunity to be in most of our games and have a chance to win most of our games, outside of a few.
“They showed their character and hard work and it paid off on the floor.”
The Braves lose four seniors to graduation – Starkey, Summers, Landon Long and Anthony Steele.
“Konnor hung in there and was really productive this year for us. We relied a lot on him to handle the basket, and he did a nice job of that this year, along with having some good games on offense,” Stiverson said. “Garret was a great role player, great teammate and did some nice things for us, especially on the defensive end and picked up his defense this season.
“Landon Long is a kid who has come all the way through our program, and again he is a great teammate, good role player, encouraged the team and is a good defender. Anthony Steele moved into our district last year and he’s a kid who wanted to be part of our team. He’s another great kid who came to practice, worked hard and was a great teammate.”
Logan Elm is projected to return three starters, their two leading scorers Holbert and Baker, and Drew Tomlinson, a strong defender.
“For our guys coming back, they need to take what they learned this season and continue to work hard in the offseason on improving areas of the game that they need to continue and work on,” Stiverson said. “Our guys coming back or coming up for the program need to do that if we want to compete for a league and district title next season. Players get better and develop their games in the offseason to have success during the season.”
Division II Southeast District semifinal
No. 12 Jackson 53,
No. 4 Logan Elm 39
JACKSON — Jacob Winters 1-0-2, Boston Campbell 6-4-16, Logan Miller 7-3-17, Drew Bragg 5-1-13, Holden Blankenship 1-1-3, Evan Jarvis 0-2-2. Three-point goals — Bragg (2). Total — 20-35 11-13 53.
LOGAN ELM — Konnor Starkey 3-0-7, Braylen Baker 6-0-14, Garret Summers 2-2-7, Tanner Holbert 4-1-11. Three-point goals — Holbert (2), Baker (2), Starkey and Summers. Total — 15-35 3-4 39.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Jackson 15 10 13 15 53
Logan Elm 11 15 9 4 39