It didn’t look like Holt would move into first place in the CAAC Blue alone when the Rams trailed Okemos by as much as 14 points during the first half on Friday night.
But junior Don’Quall Jackson hit a pair of 3-pointers during a key run before halftime to bring Holt close and another one early in the fourth quarter to help the Rams to a 55-50 high school boys basketball victory.
Combined with Lansing Eastern’s 67-65 overtime loss at Jackson and Sexton’s 74-71 overtime loss at East Lansing, Holt (13-4, 9-3) moves a game ahead of the Quakers (9-7, 8-4) and two ahead of the Big Reds (10-6, 7-5) with two league games remaining next week.
“You knew they’d have a run. They’re just too good not to,” Okemos coach Jeff Wonch said. “We were shooting real well and playing really hard. We just had a lull there in the middle, but I’m proud of my guys.”
Senior Peter Nichols hit four 3-pointers of his 16 points to help the Chiefs take an 18-6 lead a basket into the second quarter.
“I’m so proud of Peter because this is his first game back from the injury he got (against Everett on Feb. 1),” Wonch said. “I didn’t think he was going to back at all this season. He went from being unconscious on the court with a broken face to hitting threes in the first quarter. It’s just remarkable.”
After Holt pulled within 19-13, junior Edward Smith scored six of his 10 points to extend Okemos’ lead to 29-15 with three minutes left before halftime.
“That’s what we have been wanting him to be all year is a nice spark off the bench giving us some energy and some points,” Wonch said.
Then Don’Quall Jackson hit four free throws plus a pair of 3-pointers and Tanner Beachnau added two more treys in a 16-3 run that enabled Holt to get as close as 32-31 at halftime.
“Tanner Beachnau played amazing on both ends of the floor,” Holt coach Matt Essell said. “He hit big shots, and was such a good leader tonight.”
Okemos took its last lead at 45-44 with 6:10 remaining following a 10-3 run. But junior Tyrell Williams put Holt ahead before Don’Quall Jackson hit a 3-pointer that made it 49-45.
The Rams went into a delay, Okemos fouled, and Holt made 6 of 14 free throws to seal the win.
“We have enough ball handlers that we can really do it (the delay), but we’ve got to make our free throws to make it a little more effective,” Essell said.
Don’Quall Jackson finished with 23 points, and Beachnau had 11 for the Rams. Nathan Lafayette 15 points and Smith 10 points for the Chiefs (8-8, 5-7).