With three minutes to go in Friday night's Cretin-Derham Hall versus Henry Sibley section 4AAAA final game Sibley assistant Jeremy Christiansen was jittering with nerves when he felt a calming hand on his shoulder. Next came the words, "Don't worry, Jordan will win it at the buzzer", from fellow Warrior assistant Lernell James.
If you are going to Las Vegas this spring or summer give Lernell a buzz as his gift for seeing the future is worth a listen. Sibley combo guard Jordan Jackson scored a career high 31 points including the game winning buzzer beater that put the Warriors back in the state tournament for the third season in a row.
With 7.8 seconds to go a time-out was called and both teams went to the benches. Coach Tom Dasovich instructed his players while Jerry Kline Jr. directed his Raider bunch to a defensive strategy. The ball was entered with Jackson dribbling on the right side of the floor in front of the purple and gold fan base. When Jordan was five feet above the arc he faked a drive right and crossed over to the middle of the floor left. It was a clever move as just moments before Jackson had went right attacking the sideline and then down the baseline to hit a floater in traffic.
This time Jackson went middle beating the initial defender. Two other Raiders stepped in to help on the drive but Jordan was able to get over the top of the defense bouncing off their contact. Jackson hung in the air to drop in the game winner giving Sibley the win 55-53.
For the Raiders it was a very good season. They finished 23-6. At the start of the school year you would have assumed this record considering their size and talent but some tough things happened along the way. They lost power forward Clay Horne to a prep school and that's a big absence considering Clay has a division one scholarship offer and his game improved drastically over the summer months. You take him out of the middle and then you have the media circus that surrounds big man Seantrel Henderson.
Seantrel missed games and practices to his winter football buzz and there were some other struggles as well. Then you have the loss of sophomore point guard Cortez Tillman at the end of the year. Add those things into the equation plus the usage of several talented but inexperienced underclassmen and it was a pretty good showing for Kline. Also, it has to be pointed out that after the game and postgame handshakes Kline was all class going out of his way to congratulate Dasovich and his staff. Kline gave an extra set of congratulatory words and that's not something you see that often when emotions are as high as they were last night. Especially after a physical game like this one.
I have never witnessed a more physical first five minutes of a game with most of the action let go by the officials. For people that love physical play it was great! Senior Mike Rostampour (who recently received a division one offer from The Citadel) of Sibley and sophomore C.J. Neumann of Cretin-Derham Hall were wrestling like their names were Junkyard Dog and Nikita Koloff. Bodies were hitting the floor on every possession. And when Seantrel entered the game to massive chants of "Seantrel, Seantrel" the bumping (often guys just bouncing off the massive body of Henderson) became even more intense. The backcourt was into the action too. Every drive into the paint saw the guards bounced around like pinballs.
This is where Jordan Jackson excelled and others did not. Jordan was the one guy in this game who was regularly able to get inside, absorb the contact, gather himself, and finish. Attacking baseline, through the middle, going at the cup in transition, all of it was just to quick for the Raider backcourt to keep in front of them. The Jackson first step after an initial dribble drive move has to be one of the most explosive in the state of Minnesota at least amongst the players that attack the rim and finish the play themselves. There are a couple athletic players in Minnesota backcourts that can create to pull-up and shoot from the perimeter. There are also some explosive players who can get by to create for others on assists. But I don't know to many names out there that can explode with the move and then get to the lane like Jordan except Hopkins junior wing Joe Coleman.
Outside of Jackson's drives there wasn't too much other scoring at the rim in last night's game. Raijon Kelly scored on some attacks as he had a Raider high 16 points but that's about it. On the block the bigs couldn't finish much on each other outside of a couple Jake Kreuser low post moves and a big second half Mike Rostampour alley-oop jam late in the game. Kreuser scored six points, Rostampour put up eight, Henderson had five, and Neumann produced four points.
While buckets were tough for the Raiders near the rim they did catch fire from the outside building a 49-44 second half lead. On the wing senior Gus Gehlen and sophomore Taylor Montero showed off pretty shooting strokes as they scored 13 points and 11 points respectively. Montero continually pump-faked Sibley Warriors out of their shoes as Taylor's game combines intelligence with skill.
However, in the end the Raiders just couldn't stop Jordan Jackson. Not at the start when the game was incredibly physical, not when he was bumped hard inside, not when Jordan was shooting on the perimeter, and definitely not in the final seconds of the game.
So rest easy coach. The Warriors are back in the state tournament for the third straight season.