Jackson finds success in early portion of season
JACKSON TWP. The first few weeks of the season have been a learning experience for the Jackson boys basketball team.
The positive side of that reality is that unlike many learning experiences for teams, this one has been a winning one. Rather than take their lumps as they settle into a new campaign, the Polar Bears have found a way to win games while also navigating a path through a COVID-19-influenced first month.
A 7-0 overall record and 3-0 Federal League mark suggest that they're on their way to contending for another league title; a closer look illustrates how the way they've reached where they are has been about growing and learning.
"This year's challenging obviously. We were quarantined for 12 days (in the preseason), but the chemistry and balanced scoring, as well as guys knowing their role, has been big," head coach Tim Debevec said. "We're playing eight to nine guys right now in our rotation and guys are having fun right now, especially being 3-0 on the road in the Federal League."
Those three league road wins are a number some Federal League teams don't reach for an entire year, but beating Lake, Hoover and GlenOak in succession is merely the appetizer for what lies ahead for Jackson. Pinpointing the reason for those wins isn't as easy as a glance at the stat sheet, but the underlying element that connects them is defense.
Allowing 47, 50 and 47 points to three solid league foes shows the commitment the Polar Bears have made on that end of the court. It's also how they were able to get back into the game against GlenOak after the Golden Eagles built a large early lead.
"We're more experienced this year. Last year we'd have lost one of those three games," Debevec said. "We're playing better defense and it's tough having three in a row on the road, but now we've got those three out of the way."
Against GlenOak, Jackson fell behind 20-4 early on, but was able to buckle down on defense and outscore the Eagles 46-27 the rest of the way.
It was a momentum-generating win, the kind that seemed a long way off back when the team was forced to quarantine for nearly two weeks in between preseason scrimmages against Cincinnati Moeller and Medina.
"You're down 20-4 in the first quarter and it showed how to keep your composure. Good teams win on the road and we're going to get better and it's nice to learn from winning as well, because we did a nice job keeping our composure and cutting away at the lead," Debevec said.
While the entire rotation has been called upon through the first six games, Debevec pointed to the efforts of captains Michael Skeriotis and Alex Graybill as tone-setters for the team's early success. The veteran coach noted that both are 4.0-GPA students off the court and have an even-keeled demeanor that allows them to lead and also speak up when needed.
If the schedule holds up and there aren't any COVID-related cancellations in the next 10 days or so, the calendar year should come to an end with the Polar Bears having nine games under their belts. Should they be able to continue learning and growing through that stretch, they'll kick off the new year with nine more Federal League games to play and a good chance to be in the fight for a league title when the season plays out.