The Jonathan Alder High School boys basketball team had more turnovers than it had made baskets in the second half and overtime of a non-conference game Tuesday, Jan. 16 with visiting Hilliard Darby.
But a three-point made by freshman Jackson Izzard (14 points) on a play set up by a drive and kick from sophomore Jackie Santa-Emma with just :10 remaining in the extra session gave the host Pioneers a rewarding 45-43 victory.
“I’m really proud of our guys for grinding and finding a way,” Alder coach Brent Cahill said. “Some nights we shoot it well, but we are also playing good defense which has kind of been our calling card all year.”
The win was especially sweet because Cahill’s young team had a double-digit second-half lead that it let slip away as it struggled with the Panthers full-court pressure defense.
Alder lead 31-19 late in the third quarter, but as soon as Darby imitated pressure in the backcourt the Pioneers offense went to mush. What had been a well-oiled machine running at a more deliberate pace got pressured and the results weren’t pretty for the home team.
Darby went on a 12-0 run to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Alder became a turnover machine for a period of time late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.
“We’re young, we’re really young,” Cahill said. “We don’t really have anyone in the backcourt other than Cam (Androw) who’s a senior. We’ve been exposed, at time teams have a hard time guarding us, then teams go to that kind of stuff to speed the game up and we don’t make them pay enough.
“You knew they would adjust and be more aggressive. They got us in foul trouble. It was a rollercoaster game, you look on the scoreboard and see a low-scoring game, but there was a lot of action.”
Once Darby tied the game at 31-31 it’s full-court defense was as strong. Alder was able to break it, get into its offense and junior Jacob Koenig (18 points) drilled a long three-pointer to put the Pioneers ahead 34-31 with just 3:10 to go in regulation.
Darby scored the next six points to take a 37-34 lead, but Koenig came up big again, connecting on another long three-point try to tie the game at 37-37 with 30 seconds to go. Darby called timeout and attempted a game-winning shot at the buzzer that was off the mark.
Santa-Emma opened the scoring in overtime with a backdoor cut to the basket making it 39-37. The Panthers scored on consecutive trips down the floor to make it 41-39 Darby. Koenig, as he had all night had an answer. He knocked down yet another shot from beyond the arc, giving the Pioneers a 42-41 lead. For the game Alder hit nine of 16 three-point shots.
A pair of Darby free throws gave the visitors a 43-42 lead with :29 to play, setting the stage for Izzard’s game winner. The freshman also game up big on the final possession of the game preventing Darby’s Jalen Benjamin from getting off a shot.
“I was proud of Jackson Izzard, he’s a guy who’s been up and down for us,” the coach said. “He kind of had to guard late in the game, our freshman guard had to play their junior point guard who’s quick, he was able to flatten him off and they weren’t able to get the shot.”
With the win Alder improved to 10-2 on the season, Darby fell to 7-6.
“This group of guys I enjoy being around,” Cahill said. “Because they are so heavily invested and they’re good kids and our chemistry is so good. You know we can play above those soft mistakes at times.
“It’s such a learning experience for our younger guys, but we’re learning and winning which is a lot better than losing and learning.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.