Indians hold Polar Bears without a field goal in final five minutes to break open close game.

COPLEY Tuesday night’s game ebbed and flowed for most of 27 minutes.

Then it was all flow for Copley.

The Indians held visiting Jackson without a field goal for the final five minutes and pulled away for a 65-53 win in a battle of two Division I heavyweights that are building a nice high school boys basketball rivalry.

“That’s a big win for our program,” Copley head coach Mark Dente said, “to get a perennial state power to come to our gym and beat them by double figures.”

Two years ago, it was Jackson edging Copley in a district semifinal on its way to a state championship. Last year, it was the Indians blasting Jackson in a regional semifinal.

If Tuesday night was any indication, another tournament meeting would be fun.

Senior DJ Jones scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures for the Indians (12-2), who lead the Suburban League.

“It kind of felt like a tournament game,” Dente said. “Jackson is so good. … We tried to stay out on the shooters as best we could and not help, and sag a little bit on the ball. Holding a team like that to 53, it worked.”

Senior Anthony Mazzeo carried a heavy burden serving as Jackson’s playmaker and led the Polar Bears with 17 points and four assists.

Jackson (12-3) trailed by as many as 11 in the first half with deep threat Trent Jones in foul problems. The Polar Bears rallied to take the lead twice in the second half but seemed to run out of gas.

“I think it was a good game for us on the road,” Jackson head coach Tim Debevec said. “That’s a team that was in the regional final last year. You almost have to be perfect.

“… We better learn from this and not do it again on Friday and down the road.”

Lesson No. 1: Boxing out.

Copley pounded Jackson on the boards to the tune of a 40-19 advantage. Fifteen of those rebounds came on the offensive glass for the Indians, who had three looks each on two separate possessions late to help them put the game away.

Sam Emich, a 6-foot-6 senior, went for 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, while 6-3 sophomore AJ Campbell added 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

“AJ and Sam are two athletic big men for us,” Dente said. “AJ might be a little undersized, but he’s so smart. They limited their second chances and altered some shots, which I thought was big for us, allowing us to get some runouts.”

Copley senior guard VannAubrey Thomas totaled 15 points and eight rebounds — five of them offensive. The fifth Copley starter, junior Tyson Durant, scored six points before fouling out. The Indians rarely subbed and didn’t get a single point off their bench.

Jackson led 48-47 with 7:18 left when Jones drained a 3-pointer from the right corner. The Polar Bears' crowd roared its approval, feeling they had Copley reeling.

The lead was short-lived. Emich answered with a quick-trigger trey of his own on the following possession.

“Honestly, I really wasn’t thinking about it,” Emich said of his momentum-swinging shot. “I just kind of stepped back from the 3-point line and let it fly. I was like, ‘Oh, it went in. We’re good. Let’s get back and play some defense.’”

That they did.

Leading 52-51 with less than five minutes left, the Indians held Jackson to 0-for-5 shooting down the stretch. Jones got a steal and breakaway bucket in what became an 11-0 run for the Indians.

“We decided our No. 1 priority right now is defense and smart shots,” Emich said. “We definitely were playing defense.”

Will Hyde totaled 12 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots for Jackson, while fellow senior Hayden Junker scored 10 points before fouling out. The Polar Bears host Perry on Friday, looking to avenge one of their losses from earlier this season and stay on the heels of Green in the Federal League race.

“I know our group is going to bounce back on Friday,” Debevec said. “That’s what we’ve got to do. Our No. 1 goal is still in line, to win the Federal League title.”

 

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