CANTON: The best season in two decades for the Ellet boys basketball team came to a conclusion Wednesday night against Jackson at Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Ellet scrapped and played with a grit that coach Mark Fisher wanted to see, but state-ranked Jackson held an edge with forward Evan Bailey and guard Kyle Mottice.
The two seniors guided Jackson to a 59-47 victory in a Division I district semifinal. Bailey, who is 6-foot-6, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Mottice, who is 6-0, totaled 16 points, six rebounds and three steals, and 6-3 senior Mitch Pugh had 14 points.
“They were 20-3 for a reason,” Jackson coach Tim Debevec said. “They are a good team with size. Their coach does a great job with the 6-7 guy [junior Breaon Brady], the 6-8 guy [freshman A.J. Gareri] and the 6-5 guy [senior Jake Williams] on the floor. Their zone kind of bothered us with the size.
“They had a great year and we have had a pretty good year — 23-2 is a great year and we still want more.”
Jackson will play at 7 p.m. Saturday in a district final against the winner of the game between Cuyahoga Falls and Canton Timken at 7 tonight.
“We have two days to prepare for Falls and Timken, two good teams,” Debevec said. “We’ve got to get better. We have to improve on some things to win on Saturday.”
Brady paced Ellet (20-4) with 21 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Senior Dionte Williams added 11 points and five rebounds.
“We have guys with good character,” Fisher said. “Our seniors have fight and they knew what to do. They knew where we had an advantage and they got the ball inside. They couldn’t handle it there for a while.
“We had them reeling a little bit and they were feeling our pressure there. They made some huge shots on the baseline where their seniors stepped up, Mottice, [David] Smith and Bailey. They made some giant shots there and they don’t miss foul shots.”
Jackson led 17-10 after one quarter and 32-19 at halftime. The Polar Bears closed the first half on a 9-0 run with Bailey scoring six points and sophomore Jake Pallotta scoring three points.
“Everybody was going to the boards,” Bailey said. “The ball came off the rim right to me every time it felt like, so I had easy layups. If we get offensive rebounds like that all the time we are hard to beat.”
Ellet rallied and cut its deficit to three points three times in the second half (40-37, 44-41 and 46-43) behind the play of Brady in the post and passing from senior guards Jake Fisher and Dionte Williams.
“He is a load,” Debevec said of Brady. “The coach told me he is 6-7, 295. That is a big kid to get around. You can only do so much against him.”
Jackson countered with the scoring of Bailey and Mottice to extend the lead back to 42-37 after three quarters.
“We finished the game,” Debevec said. “We have been in a lot of close games with Mentor and Zanesville. That helped out down the stretch as we took care of the ball.”
Mark Fisher was pleased with his team’s effort and sees a bright future at Ellet.
“We had a freshman [Gareri] step up huge [and score seven points],” Fisher said. “We had our big guy Breaon, who was a man inside. Everybody got him the ball. We knew what to do and we got it to him. It is hard to get it to them because they play good defense.
“We came from 4-18 last year to 20-4 this year. I don’t think many teams are playing tonight that were 4-18 last year. I think we have established ourselves and we will be back.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.