MASSILLON: As Jackson coach Tim Debevec walked off the floor after the Polar Bears’ 57-49 Federal League win over North Canton Hoover on Friday night, he calmly repeated, “One more, one more.”
Armed with a superb performance from junior point guard Kyle Mottice, a couple of hot hands from the 3-point line and a strong sixth-man advantage, the Polar Bears (14-5, 9-2) scored the final eight points of the fourth quarter in front of a standing-room-only crowd after Hoover (15-3, 8-3) climbed back to the tie the score at 49-49, with 1:04 left in the game.
More importantly, with the win, Jackson controls its own destiny in the Federal League with only one game left on the schedule, next Friday at Lake, which also stands at 9-2 in league play. Jackson beat Lake 70-54 the first time the two teams met.
“It was a good, team effort tonight,” Debevec said. “We will enjoy this now and then we have to win next week. That’s high school basketball at its finest.”
Once Hoover tied the game on a terrific three-point play by senior forward Harrison Blackledge with 1:04 left, Mottice, who had been Jackson’s distributor all night, took over the game.
Mottice was fouled on the next inbounds pass and made both free throws. At the other end, he knocked the ball loose and saved it as he fell out of bounds, but junior Evan Bailey was called for an offensive foul. After a Hoover travel and two Bailey free throws to put Jackson ahead 53-49, Mottice again stole the ball, was fouled and made both free throws to give the Polar Bears a 55-49 lead with 26 seconds left.
Mottice finished with a team-high 14 points, three assists, four rebounds and three steals and was a 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
“He hustles, he does so much,” Debevec said of Mottice. “He gets steals, rebounds, he does everything for us. He’s really played well.”
The Polar Bears received strong performances across the board. Junior David Smith scored 13 points, Bailey added 12 points and junior Mitch Pugh finished with 10 points.
Jackson played most of the night with a slim margin thanks to shooting 53 percent from behind the 3-point line as a team. That included four 3-pointers in the third quarter to a turn a one-point halftime deficit into a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Jackson led 49-43 with two minutes remaining, but Blackledge, who had to be held out for some of the fourth quarter due to foul trouble, re-entered the game, nailed a 3-pointer and then completed his three-point play to tie the game.
Blackledge scored a game-high 18 points but was limited in the second half. As a team, Hoover had to play it safe after falling into foul trouble throughout the game with a couple of players. The Vikings tried to slow down the game and at times succeeded. Hoover held the ball for the final 2:30 of the first half and then took a 26-25 lead when Matt Zehnder drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I think we had the tempo we wanted,” Hoover coach Randy Montgomery said. “We were in foul trouble so we held the ball early. We got to halftime in a position we wanted to be in. … It was too much to overcome, really.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.