Jackson, sans its head coach, goes cold in the second half as Hoover’s 1-3-1 zone leads to its 59-52 win.
Most times, the trump in the hand of the Hoover High School boys basketball team is relentless, pressing defense.
The Vikings showed Friday night that there are plenty more cards in their hands, and poor Tim Debevec wasn’t around to show what kind of poker face he owns.
The Vikings’ half-court zone defense in the second half stymied a Jackson team that was sans its head coach for much of Hoover’s roller-coaster 59-52 win.
A sold-out crowd of more than 2,000 fans watched as Hoover’s 1-3-1 zone got the Polar Bears out of rhythm. Jackson shot just 20 percent in the second half, including 0-for-13 from the 3-point line, in suffering its first Federal League loss.
Friday was the 100th win by the Vikings at Hoover’s gym, dubbed the “Win Tunnel” by head coach Randy Montgomery, in his 11 seasons as head coach. The Vikings (9-1, 4-1) stay a game behind first-place Lake in the league standings, and they have their 1-3-1 to thank.
“They were hitting everything in the first half and that 1-3-1 kind of stalled the offense a little bit,” said Hoover
senior forward Harrison Blackledge, who led the Vikings with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. “We were able to get our hands up on shooters and we rebounded pretty well out of it.”
Said Montgomery about his defenses, “We’ve got to tinker around once in a while and see what’s working, not let (the opponent) get too comfortable against one.”
A Jackson team still learning how to play without senior floor leader Miles Griffin — lost for the season to an ACL injury — showed some resiliency and was up 35-33 after 12 lead changes in the first half. The lead grew to as many as seven in the third quarter.
“We kept fighting back and they did a great job keeping their composure,” Jackson assistant coach Jon Perdue said. “We did what we do. We attacked and got buckets.
“... Hoover made some adjustments and went to their 1-3-1, which we knew they were going to do. We prepared for that all week. But I thought our guys quit attacking it.”
Perdue directed the team after Debevec was ejected on consecutive technical fouls with 2:27 left in the first quarter. Disgusted with an offensive foul called on Evan Bailey, Debevec threw down his sport coat to earn the first technical. He barely had time to utter whatever he said to earn the second whistle and an early exit.
“I deserved the first one,” Debevec said. “But the ref kept coming at me. I said something to him and was going to call timeout, and he threw me out. I was stunned.”
Kyle Mottice, David Smith and Mitch Pugh scored 11 points each to lead Jackson, which seemed fairly comfortable handling Hoover’s pressure.
Page 2 of 2 - Bailey was held scoreless in the second half and finished with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds before fouling out late.
Senior Evan Schick scored 15 points, including a 16-foot jumper with 4:55 left in the fourth quarter that gave Hoover the lead for good at 47-46. He also grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
The Vikings made all six of their free throws in the final three minutes and got big jump shots from Blackledge and Dom Iero to help hold the lead.
That jumper was Iero’s only points after the first quarter. The senior sharpshooter finished with 11 as Jackson’s Kyle Johnson spent much of the game harassing him.
Jackson still was only down three points in the final minute when Hoover’s Joe Delamater found Schick snaking along the baseline on the weakside for a huge bucket.r