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BOYS BASKETBALL: Dakota holds off Rochester Adams for first regional crown

| March 17, 2016 | Comments (0)

BY DAN STICKRADT

SENIOR EDITOR

dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com

Twitter: @LocalSportsFans

MACOMB TWP. — A couple of years ago, Jermaine Jackson Jr. and his teammates made a vow to each other to create a legacy for Macomb Dakota basketball.

It appears that their collective goal is becoming a reality at Dakota.

The Associated Press second-ranked Cougars kept their unbeaten season alive and well Wednesday night, as they held off Rochester Adams, 74-68, in the Class A regional finals on Dakota’s home court.

“We want to make Dakota a basketball school, not just a football school,” said the 5-foot-10 junior guard. “Our goal is to win it all, win a state championship and become a basketball school. We’re almost there.”

Jackson, one of the state’s top juniors, was held scoreless in the first half, when he was 0-for-2 from the floor. He scored all 14 of his points in the second half to go along with eight rebounds, three steals and two assists in helping Dakota reach the Elite Eight of the Class A state tournament for the first time.

The Cougars (25-0) will face unranked Midland in the state quarterfinals next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Grand Blanc High School.

Rochester Adams, which at one time was honorable mention in the polls this season, bows out with an 18-6 record after reaching the regional finals for the second time in school history, the first since 2011.

Jackson swished 7-for-8 free throws in the final 21 seconds — Dakota was 12-for-15 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter — and the Cougars fended off the Highlanders’ late charge.

“Ever since we lost to Clarkston in last year’s (regional finals), we wanted to come back and win the regional this year,” added Jackson. “Our ultimate goal is the state championship and this is the next step of (full-filling) our dream.”

Two days after knocking out sixth-ranked Clarkston, 68-66, in double-overtime, Dakota still shot 27-for-42 from the floor (64.3 percent) and converted 18-of-23 free throws (78.3 percent) against Adams.

“Of course in the back of my mind I thought we could have a letdown. But these guys didn’t,” said Dakota coach Paul Tocco.

The Highlanders led 19-17 at the end of the first quarter. Dakota fought back with a 16-13 surge in the second frame to earn a narrow, 33-32, lead at the half.

Dakota outscored Adams 19-13 in the third quarter. The Highlanders scored the first four points of the third period, only to see Dakota respond with a 9-0 run for a 42-36 advantage.

The Cougars outscored Adams 12-9 during he final 5:47 of the third stanza for a 52-45 lead by the end of quarter.

Jackson’s lay-up with 4:06 to play in the contest gave Dakota its biggest lead at 60-47 before Adams staged a late-game comeback attempt.

“We played our game in the third quarter and early part of the fourth,” said Tocco. “I don’t think we played tight in the first half, I just think Rochester Adams did a great job defensively. We really couldn’t get in the flow. Then in the third quarter we had a little pep in our step. That was the team that I’ve known all year.”

Adams still trailed 62-52 with 2:55 left following a short-range jumper from Spencer Littleson (Duquesne), which kickstarted the comeback.

Senior forward Andrew Slating’s three-pointer with 13.9 seconds left trimmed the lead down to 71-68. Adams had a turnover and a missed three-pointer down the stretch and Jackson sealed the Highlanders’ fate with his late barrage of free throws.

The Highlanders closed with a 17-12 run, only to come up agonizingly short.

“We were that close to one of the best teams in the state,” added Hall.

Littleson, a 6-4 senior guard and Mr. Basketball finalist, bowed out with a game-high 25 points, including four 3-pointers, to go along with six rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Joey Zinitti added 22 points on the strength of four three-pointers with four assists and three steals, and Slating scored seven for the Highlanders, who shot 27-for-58 (46.6 percent) from the floor.

“It was a three-, maybe four-minute stretch in the third quarter that was the difference,” said Adams coach John Hall. “They picked up the pace, we missed some shots and they started to pull away.

“I was really impressed with how hard the kids played in the fourth quarter,” continued Hall. “We kept it close and had a shot there. If we could have kept it a little closer we would not have had to change the game plan.”

Thomas Kilthier, a 6-8 sophomore center, continued his monster week with a team-high 21 points, six rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals for Dakota. Senior guard Chris Marshall had a fine floor game with 13 points and a game-high 10 assists, while senior guard Tre’Von Webster also reached double figures with 15 points for the Cougars.Basketball - ball

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Category: Clarkston, Featured Articles, High School, High School (M-Z), Prep Wraps, Rochester Adams

About Dan Stickradt: DAN STICKRADT | SENIOR EDITOR dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com View author profile.

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