The mindset was the same, but the plan of attack was different for Jackson Prep in its second regular-season meeting with rival Jackson Academy.
The first time these teams met in December, the Raiders nailed open 3-point looks.
This time around, the Patriots (9-7) stepped up their ball pressure. In the end, it was no match. Jackson Academy, ranked No. 1 in MAIS AAA, handed its crosstown rival a 53-35 loss on Saturday.
For a fourth straight game, the Raiders (15-1) beat their opponent by 17 or more points. After jumping to an 8-1 lead in the first quarter, Jackson Academy controlled the tempo and never trailed.
Prep’s defensive game plan did exactly what it needed to do — take away the Raiders’ perimeter offense.
But that worked in senior guards Greg Stewart and Austin Tucker’s favor, allowing the two to break from the post and hit open shots.
“(The way Jackson Prep defended us) created some easy opportunities for us to score down low,” Raiders coach Bill Ball said.
Stewart led all scorers with 16 points, while Tucker added 14.
“This game plan was to pressure more, and that’s going to give (Stewart and Tucker) the ability to run the floor and get by you,” Jackson Prep coach Chris Moore said. “We need to play better help-side when they do that and do better in our assignments.”
Jackson Academy scored 30 of its 53 points in the paint, an area where Stewart and Tucker executed with ease.
“If there’s a lot of ball pressure, you just go by them, and it makes it easy to score in the paint,” Stewart said.
Tucker’s niftiness inside also proved effective in getting his team quick baskets early despite eight team turnovers in the first half.
“I do practice that (move) a lot,” Tucker said. “It usually comes when a lot of defense is around and the help-side is open, so I just reverse it.”
The Patriots’ defensive pressure was not for naught. Prep scored 16 points off turnovers.
But putting two or more defenders on senior Evans Wilkerson only allowed the 6-foot-5 center to create more looks for his teammates.
“When they double-teamed me, I was able to face up and look for my open man,” Wilkerson said. “We were able to get a lot of points that way.”
The regular season sweep over its crosstown rival gives Jackson Academy a boost heading into a big test Tuesday against MRA, who went toe-to-toe with Oxford on Friday.
“It gives us motivation and an extreme amount of confidence going into that game,” Stewart said. “You build off this win and it makes it a lot easier.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or email@example.com. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.