When Don’Quall Jackson scored 16 points in the third quarter to help Holt erase a 14-point deficit and tie the game heading into the fourth quarter, it looked like the Rams were on their way to maintaining a two-game lead atop the CAAC Blue.
But Brian Morton scored 11 of Eastern’s 14 points in the fourth quarter and the first six of his team’s seven points in overtime to lift the Quakers to a 67-65 victory on Friday night.
“To see him score that much, I knew I had to pick my game up to another level,” Morton said. “I was trying to be aggressive, and make sure we get this win.”
Morton made 8 of 9 free throws and 6-foot-6 senior Dar’Relle Welch added 13 points as Eastern (6-6, 5-3) – and Sexton (8-4, 5-3) because of its 72-50 win over Grand Ledge — moved to within one game of Holt (10-3, 6-2) in the league standings with six CAAC Blue contests remaining.
“You can’t stay in front of him. He’s really slithery. He’s a tough cover,” Holt coach Matt Essell said of Morton. “He’s good at drawing contact. He shoots the three this year, which he didn’t used to do that well, so you’ve got to get out on him. He’s just pretty relentless, and he doesn’t miss free throws.”
Eastern led 27-15 at haftime by holding Holt to 3 of 25 shooting for just 12 percent.
“The guys have been focusing on playing defense, and taking a little bit of pride in that,” Quakers coach Rod Watts said. “We caught them off guard by putting in some new things.”
“It’s not so much shooting woes as us being selfish and not making the extra pass,” Essell said. “It takes us awhile to remember that if we don’t share it, we struggle. We’ve got a lot of different guys that can score, and sometimes they just don’t trust eachother enough. When we do, we’re pretty good.”
Junior Don’Quall Jackson finished with 18 points and seven assists while his brother, senior Donte Jackson, added 12 points.
“Don’Quall’s a tough kid, and he makes us go,” Essell said. “Everything we do kind of comes off from him.”
The Quaker — s gave up 31 points — more than twice as many as the entire first half — in the third quarter.
“Sometimes high school guys don’t come out with that same intensity,” Watts said.
But Don’Quall Jackson’s only points besides the four 3-pointers and two baskets in the third quarter were two free throws with 51 seconds left that sent the game into overtime tied 60-60.
“We had a guy shadowing him, E.J Jackson, a sophomore, a guy who’s a pitbull,” Watts said.
Jackson also played point guard for the Quakers after Phoenix Washington fouled out with 2:05 remaining.
“E.J.’s capable of scoring 20-plus a night, but we don’t need that from him right now,” Watts said. “We need him to focus on being a great defender, which he has done.”
Morton also fouled out with Eastern ahead 66-65 with four seconds left in overtime, but Holt missed two free throws and was called for a lane violation that nullified what appeared to be a go-ahead basket by senior Trevor Stone following the second miss.
Eastern’s Tameron Williams-Baker made 1 of 4 free throws for the final margin.