JACKSON TWP.: When Jackson senior point guard Kyle Mottice is playing well, according to coach Tim Debevec, the Polar Bears can be “pretty good.”
Mottice played very well against North Canton Hoover in a Federal League game Friday night, and Jackson was better than just pretty good, cruising past the Vikings 78-51 at home.
Mottice scored 13 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Until 6:30 remaining in the second quarter, he alone was outscoring Hoover 8-7 and from there was in control of Jackson’s offense.
“When Kyle is on his game, moving the ball, attacking, he’s a great athlete,” Debevec said. “He knows the game. He’s a three-year starter. He rebounds, he attacks. He’s Mr. Everything.”
Mottice also acted as the point man for Jackson’s defense, which for the second game in a row was stifling. The Polar Bears recently beat Boardman 80-20 and on Friday night held Hoover to only 31 points entering the fourth quarter.
This defensive focus came after Jackson allowed 82 points in a loss to Canton McKinley earlier this season. Since then, the Polar Bears have used a defense-is-the-best-offense mentality.
“I love the ‘run and score,’ it gets us a lot of points, but you’re not going to win giving up 82,” Debevec said. “Tonight we settled down and played better defense. We have to play defensive games like this.”
Jackson (5-1, 4-1) also got double-digit scoring from Mitch Pugh (16 points, four rebounds, two steals) and Evan Bailey (14 points, six rebounds). Along with Mottice, those three provided plenty of senior experience needed to win a rivalry game.
Hoover (3-2, 2-2), recovering from the loss of Dom Iero and Harrison Blackledge from last year’s team, is still searching for an identity and the toughness to grind out games in the Federal League.
“We have to find that gritty toughness,” Hoover coach Randy Montgomery said. “In a game like this, you find out [if you have it]. We don’t have any four-year starters like Bailey. Pugh, Mottice — those guys have been there forever, it seems like.”
Jackson took an 18-7 lead after the first quarter and, on the strength of an 11-0 run led by Mottice and Bailey, led 34-22 at halftime.
The biggest blow to the Vikings came just after coming out of the locker room. Pugh and Bailey made back-to-back 3-pointers to push Jackson’s lead to 18.
Those 3-pointers, Montgomery said, were the daggers.
“You’re up 18 and then you can play loose,” he said. “If you’re up 10, in that kind of a game where things can get dicey if you don’t hit a shot, then things change. But to their credit, they pushed it out.”
Junior Tony Iero led Hoover with 15 points and four rebounds, with much of his scoring coming in the fourth quarter. Senior Nick Evans added 11 points, three rebounds and two steals.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.