AURORA | Jaisean Jackson’s last buzzer beater hit the rim, but he found nothing but the bottom of the net the second time.
The Eaglecrest senior guard swished a long jump shot as time expired Wednesday night to lift the Raptors to a thrilling 55-53 victory at Grandview in the Centennial League opener for both teams.
Prior to winter break, Jackson’s last-second shot bounced out in a one-point loss to Denver East, but his form was true the second time around as he helped the defending Class 5A state champions rally from a 21-point second-half deficit to stun the Wolves.
“My team stuck in there, fought all the way until the end and gave me the ball; the week after that loss (to Denver East), I told them if that shot ever came again, I’d hit it,” said Jackson, who scored six of his seven points in the last four minutes.
“It felt good.”
Junior Elijah Ross scored 16 points, junior Blend Avdili added 11 and seniors Jackson and LaDerian King each chipped in seven for coach John Olander’s Eaglecrest team, which overcame a woeful 14-for-28 performance at the free throw line to improve to 8-2 overall.
Senior KyRon Allen poured in 14 points to pace Grandview (7-3), while Keanu Flores scored 10 and Armani Stevenson and Irane Sharp each added eight.
The deciding shot marked a stirring ending to game that for quite a while didn’t look like a matchup between two teams that each came into the game ranked No. 7 (Eaglecrest) and No. 8 (Grandview) in the Associated Press 5A boys prep basketball poll.
The Wolves played stifling defense in the first half, holding the Raptors to just 14 points — aided by Eaglecrest’s woeful 2-for-8 performance at the free throw line — while shooting well themselves. Allen scored eight points in the first quarter and coach Gary Childress’ team kept its foot on the gas, streaking to a 12-point halftime lead.
“I credit Grandview, they came out intense and defensively they were right up on us,” said Olander, felt his team wasted its chance to capitalize on 14 Grandview turnovers in the first two quarters.
“I think we felt it in our chest a little bit and didn’t let the offense work.”
The advantage ballooned to 21 points at 38-17 midway through the third quarter after Grandview’s Jarred Burr knocked down a 3-pointer, but the tide began to turn once the Raptors turned up the pressure on the defensive end.
As he has many times before, Avdili sparked his team with a pair of baskets to ignite a 15-2 burst to end the third quarter, capping the streak as well with a jumper in the final seconds of the period.
The Wolves got the edge back up to double figures at 46-36 midway through the final quarter, but Marquel Murphy drained a 3-pointer from the corner for Eaglecrest, which reeled off the next 10 points and tied it at 46-46 on Peter Anderson’s triple with two minutes left.
The lead see-sawed back and forth in the closing minutes, as Ross put the Raptors ahead on two occasions, only to see Grandview respond. Flores drained a huge 3-pointer to erase a three-point Eaglecrest lead with 38 seconds left, then Sharp canned a clutch jump shot to tie the game again after two Jackson free throws.
With the ball and a time out with 6.4 seconds left, Olander contemplated drawing up a play for Anderson to shoot a 3-pointer, but instead listened to Jackson, who asked to take the final shot. After Ross got the inbounds pass, Jackson got a screen from Avdili, took one step inside the 3-point line and put up his shot with Flores’ hand in his face.
The ball nestled in the net as time expired and unleashed a stampede of Eaglecrest fans onto the court as teammates lifted Jackson on their shoulders.
“All year, late in the game in that situation, he wants the ball,'” Olander said. “I think he learned a lot in that Denver East game where he missed an open one. I just didn’t know if the play we were trying to set up for him would have enough time. … He made a great play and hit a great pullup jump shot.”
The Wolves were left to contemplate a loss that left them at 0-3 at home — with losses to three ranked teams in Fossil Ridge, Regis Jesuit and Eaglecrest — but hope to take a page from the Raptors going forward when it comes to resiliency.
“That’s Eaglecrest’s DNA,” Flores said. “They just scrap and claw the whole time. We’re trying to make that our DNA, too. Coach talks to us a lot about how we can bounce back from adversity. You give credit to Eaglecrest, but at the same time you understand what you had to do.
“It was a tough one to swallow.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(7) EAGLECREST 55, (8) GRANDVIEW 53
Score by quarters:
Eaglecrest 7 7 18 23 — 55
Grandview 14 12 14 13 — 53
Elijah Ross 5 6-10 16, LaDerian King 2 3-9 7, Jaisean Jackson 2 3-4 7, Marquel Murphy 1 0-0 3, Blend Avdili 5 1-3 11, Peter Anderson 2 0-0 6, Colbey Ross 1 1-2 3, Darian Turner 1 0-0 2, Anthony Karmazyn 0 0-0 0, Treyvon Williams 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 14-28 55.
Jarred Burr 1 2-3 5, KyRon Allen 5 2-3 14, Devon Brown 2 0-0 4, Keanu Flores 3 1-1 10, Irane Sharp 3 2-2 8, Brendan Hays 1 0-0 2, Andrew Joiner 1 0-0 2, Armani Stevenson 4 0-1 8, Zach Rucker 0 0-0 0, LeChaun Duhart 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 7-10 53.
3-point field goals — Eaglecrest (3): Peter Anderson 2, Marquel Murphy; Grandview (6): Keanu Flores 3, KyRon Allen 2, Jarred Burr. Total fouls — Eaglecrest 13, Grandview 20. Fouled out — Grandview: Armani Stevenson. Technical fouls — Grandview.