MASON – Holt finished off a 16-4 regular season last Thursday and had a short turnaround before Monday’s Class A district opener.
The Rams faced a Jackson team they had defeated twice already in CAAC Blue play and the third edition provided a test before Holt was able to advance to tomorrow’s district semifinal.
Junior Ar’tavious King had 19 points and senior Josh Denning added 12 points in reserve as the Rams held off the Vikings 58-48.
“We’ve had two wins of double figures but they’ve been hard-fought. We didn’t expect anything different,” Holt coach Matt Essell said. “I think I like playing opening night. I would have liked such a tough draw, but now that we’ve got the first one it’s good.”
Jackson (9-12) led by two points after the first quarter and trailed by two at halftime as Holt moved in front in the second quarter and got more comfortable against the 2-3 zone the Vikings were employing.
The Rams (17-4) started knocking down shots in the second half. Denning hit a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer and junior Troy Jordan, who added 10 points in the game for Holt, hit two triples within the first three and a half minutes of the third quarter to provide some separation.
“It was my team finding me and I had just had to knock them down because they find me and they believe in me,” Denning said.
“When teams are making it hard with Jaron (Faulds), other guys have got to step up and I thought they did,” Essell said. “I don’t think of (Josh) as a bench guy. We’ve got nine guys who have started probably at least four or five games. He’s a starter that really just comes off the bench some nights.”
Faulds had four points through the first three quarters, but doubled that in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter with two baskets.
Despite the increase in offense for the Rams, Jackson stayed in the game with second half contributions from Marquise Robinson, who had all 11 of his points after halftime, and junior Jonathan Robinson, who totaled 16 points on the night.
However, the Vikings could get no closer than 42-37 with just over six minutes remaining following a 3-pointer from Robinson. The lead swelled back to nine at 52-43 when Holt’s Caleb Cooper went end-to-end for a lay-in against Viking pressure.
A Robinson 3-pointer cut the lead back to six, but Holt iced the game at the free-throw line with Jordan and two close-range baskets from King.
Faulds ended with nine points and 10 rebounds for Holt.
“He handled (the zone) well. He’s really an underrated passer,” King said of Faulds. “He sees the floor well. We’ll pass it to him from the top and then cut through and he makes sure to find you. …It was great to just come out here and get a ‘W’. Jackson is a great team. They’re scrappy and they fought hard. We knew they weren’t just going to lay down and let us get the ‘W’, so it was a great win.”
Holt will play Parma Western in the second of two Class A district semifinals at Mason High School on Wednesday. The winner will advance to Friday’s final.