Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — When Caleb Wallis has the basketball in his hands, good things happen. And when Wallis gets the kind of help he received Friday night, Jackson is as good as any team out there.
Wallis set the tone in a 52-43 win at Unioto in non-league play while the Ironmen (7-2) received solid scoring efforts from a platoon of players, led by Braxton Hammond.
“Caleb is our floor general and he’s our captain for a reason. He’s an extension of our coaching staff on the court,” Jackson coach Max Morrow said. “He makes everything, he gets us in the right sets and he keeps his calm when things get tough. Braxton, a junior captain, really stepped up offensively for us tonight as well.”
While Wallis and Hammond certainly did their parts, the team’s defense as a whole stepped into the limelight in the third quarter. After trailing 25-24 at halftime, Jackson outscored Unioto by a 14-2 margin the third, taking a commanding 38-27 lead into the final eight minutes.
It was a stretch the Shermans (6-2) could never recover from.
“It was executing the game plan there,” Morrow said. “There weren’t a whole lot of adjustments being made. They went 5-for-8 from three in the first half. They shot it very well. In the third quarter, our goal was to come out and win the first four minutes. We had a great third quarter and blew it open. In that type of a game, with both teams being so defensively sound, a 10-point lead is like a 20-point lead. So coming out and doing what we did, it really was the difference.”
In the first quarter, behind Wallis and Caden Donaldson, the Ironmen jumped out to a 6-0 lead. However, Unioto’s Isaac Little led the Shermans on an 8-1 run as they took an 8-7 lead with 2:46 to go. From there, the teams played evenly before heading into the second tied 13-13.
In the second, that trend continued. Down 20-17 with 3:23 left, Unioto’s Nate Kaiser nailed back-to-back triples to put Unioto on top at 23-20. The Shermans kept a narrow lead, 25-24, at halftime.
But in the third quarter, with Unioto’s defense keying on Wallis, the Ironmen looked elsewhere for scoring options.
Boston Kuhn gave Jackson a 28-25 lead before Hammond hit two consecutive buckets, making it a 32-25 ballgame. Unioto’s lone score in the sequence came with 3:59 left. That was before Hammond ended the quarter with another score, making it 38-27.
Keiser dialed long distance twice more in the fourth, cutting the deficit to 38-33 with 6:55 remaining. But Jackson managed to regroup and hit its free throws down the stretch.
“Unioto and coach [Matt] Hoops had a great game plan to take [Wallis] away,” Morrow said. “When they did that, we told him not to force anything and he got his points when he needed to. But when they were taking him away, they had to come off somebody, and it was Braxton. We needed his points tonight.”
Hammond led all scorers with 16 points while Wallis had 15 points and six rebounds. Drew Bragg also helped out, scoring 11 points, while Donaldson ended with six points and nine boards.
For Unioto, Keiser ended the night with 12 points while Little had 11 points, three rebounds and three steals. Josh Lambert also chipped in, scoring 10 points, while Reece Wheeler added five points and six rebounds.
The Shermans, who lost to Fairfield Union Saturday evening by a 45-44 final in overtime, will be back in action Friday night, traveling to Adena. After a 62-60 loss to Wheelersburg Saturday, the Ironmen now look towards a non-league bout with Minford on Monday.
“There are a lot of good teams here in Southeastern Ohio. We can’t take anything for granted,” Morrow said. “We’re playing on a quick turnaround, which will be tough to do. But our guys our tough, too. They’ll be ready.”
Jackson: 13-11-14-14 — 52
Unioto: 13-12-2-16 — 43
Jackson: 17-46 FG, 15-17 FT, 3-14 3 pt., 22 rebounds (Donaldson 9), 11 turnovers, 5 assists (Wallis 2). Scoring: Hammond 16, Wallis 15, Bragg 11, Donaldson 6, Kuhn 4.
Unioto: 16-35 FG, 3-3 FT, 8-21 3 pt., 24 rebounds (Wheeler 6), 24 turnovers, 12 assists (Cam. DeBord 3). Scoring: Keiser 12, Little 11, Lambert 10, Wheeler 5, Cam. DeBord 3, Park 2.