LEWISBURG — Preston Jackson was held scoreless for the first 31 minutes and 46 seconds Friday night.
But the Tri-County North junior came up with the biggest three points of the young season and maybe his career when he scored the go-ahead basket and free throw, with 14 seconds left, in a tie game against rival Twin Valley South, lifting host North to a thrilling 49-46 win.
“I told him his time is going to come. He’s the most fundamental guy that I’ve got. The ball fake was beautiful and he went strong to the basket and he made it and knocked down that free throw,” North Coach Joe Smith said. “He’s definitely more my defender, rebounder type (of player). I’m going to hope for six, eight points a game out of him. But I’ll take those three all day.”
North rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit (29-19) for its first win of the season.
“It was a heck of a game. It was back and forth, non-stop. They went on a great run in the second quarter and closed out with that great shot,” Smith said. “It was exactly what I thought it would be. It was a dog fight. That’s what North and South is about.”
For South, it was another disappointing close lose.
“We’re kind of trapped in a situation where we’ve been figuring out ways to lose games instead of figuring out ways to win them,” South Coach Tony Augspurger said. “It’s a tough sitch to figure out and find the answers to get it going.”
North held a 13-11 after the first quarter.
But South seemed to gain all the momentum in the second quarter as they outscored North 18-6, including scoring the final eight points of the half, which was capped off by a three-quarter court shot by Ryan Bassler.
North, however, slowly chipped away at the lead and was within four, 38-34, by the end of the third.
North opened the fourth quarter on a 9-4 run to take a 45-42 lead with 5:10 to play. South regained the lead at 46-45 with 2:28 left on a basket by Travis Lovely.
A free throw by North at 1:24 tied the game and set up Jackson’s heroics.
South had one final attempt to tie, but had a three-point shot blocked as time expired.
Dillon McCollough led North with 16 points. Brian Stinson added 11, while Josh Heindl chipped in nine and Dylan Stinson contributed eight.
For South, Lovely scored 18 adn Willie Bowman added 16.
On Saturday, North beat New Miami 80-52. McCullough led the way with 25. Jackson tossed in 17 and grabbed 14 rebounds and Dylan Stinson had 11 points.
South opened the week with a 56-48 loss to Valley View on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Smith said he’s hoping the recent success will bring more fans to North games.
“We people to come back to North and be excited to watch basketball again. It got really loud and rowdy there in the fourth and it was awesome,” he said. “If we can get fans like this every game I’ll be thrilled.
North (2-1, 1-0 CCC) is scheduled to host Brookville on Friday, Dec. 15 and will travel to National Trail on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
South (1-3, 0-1) is scheduled to host National Trail on Friday and Miami East on Tuesday.
“We talked about this first week being an important week for us coming into the year. We were going to play four teams that we had a chance to win all of them and we walked out of it 1-3,” Augspurger said. “About a worst case scenario as we can have.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH