JACKSON — Wednesday showed what FAC basketball is like in a nutshell.
A grind-it-out, low-scoring, down-to-the-wire type of game where it comes down to who makes a play in the final minutes to propel their team to the promised land.
Despite trailing for most of the game, McClain relied on its experience and free throw shooting in the second half to escape Jackson with a 33-28 victory.
“We haven’t been playing our best lately, but this is a huge win on the road that we needed,” McClain coach Jarrod Haines said. “Jackson is a really tough, young team that’s going to give us problems for the next few years, but we showed our character and resilience after Saturday’s loss. Josie Crabtree really came through in the second half defensively and got a couple big steals we needed. Overall, I’m very proud of the girls.”
Relying on experience means turning to your seniors, giving them the ball and expecting them to make a play. And that’s exactly what Bri Weller did all night long.
Weller found herself continually rolling to the basket for a high percentage shot and she was money every time.
And when it came to the charity stripe, she was a perfect 7-of-7 as she finished with 18 points and seven rebounds on the night.
She also got some much-needed assistance in the fourth quarter as Payton Pryor came through with five of her six points, alongside grabbing six of her 12 rebounds in the frame.
“Bri was just a monster tonight,” Haines said. “Not just from the field but at the free throw line and crashing the boards as well. Just an all-around outstanding performance from her. And Payton was unreal in the fourth coming up with rebounds. We knew that’s where the strength of our team was so we wanted to attack through them.”
Kenzie Davis got the ball rolling for Jackson (5-9, 2-3 FAC) early as she scored five of the team’s nine points, while the Ironladies’ defense locked the Tigers down for a 9-3 first quarter lead.
Jackson’s offense slowed down in the second, and McClain’s Kyla Burchett provided a small spark with four points to cut the lead to 12-9.
Weller connected on a bucket, only for Sydney Hughes to drill a triple on the other end to keep Jackson ahead 15-11 at halftime.
“Jackson did a good job of taking away our dribble lanes, so we adjusted and tried to go block for block to get the ball into the post,” Haines said. “Our penetration wasn’t working for us so we switched that up. And we wanted to apply more full-court pressure on them to speed things up a little and, in turn, force some turnovers.”
That pressure worked like a charm as the turnovers began to rack up for Jackson while the Tigers ended with multiple trips to the free throw line.
They buried 7-of-10 free throws to open the third and seized their first lead of the game at 18-17 with 3:15 left. Weller converted two more shots to keep them ahead 22-19 entering the fourth.
Jackson came back with a sizable punch, and retook a 26-24 lead after a three-point play from Mattie Walburn. But the Tigers had one last run as Weller and Pryor led the charge on a 9-2 run to close out the win.
“Like most kids from Greenfield, these girls are incredibly tough and resilient,” Haines said. “They battled and truly earned this victory. Our defense has been hit and miss lately, but it came together in a tough conference game. Now we have to sustain it and continue improving.”
For Jackson, Walburn finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
McClain returns to the court on Saturday at home for an FAC first-place showdown with Miami Trace, while Jackson travels to Hillsboro that same evening.
McClain: 3-8-11-11 — 33
Jackson: 9-6-4-9 — 28
McClain: 9-49 FG, 14-19 FT, 1-10 3pt., 30 rebounds (Pryor 12), 9 turnovers, 3 assists. Scoring: Weller 18, Pryor 7, Burchett 5, Pitzer 2, Stegbauer 1.
Jackson: 10-45 FG, 7-11 FT, 1-12 3pt., 29 rebounds (Davis, Walburn 8), 9 turnovers, 4 assists. Scoring: Walburn 9, Carpenter 5, Hughes 5, Davis 5, Webb 2, Evans 2.