NEW BOSTON — One staple of what makes a successful team is the sacrifices it’s willing to make in order to achieve a larger goal.
After dislocating his shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ win over Valley in a Division IV district final, New Boston junior Grady Jackson was hardly his usual self.
The win-or-go home nature and the condensed schedule of postseason basketball isn’t kind to injuries suffered in the home stretch of the season, but that didn’t stop Jackson from suiting up in their regional semifinal contest against Grandview Heights.
Playing just nine minutes in the Tigers’ 50-48 win over the Bobcats at Southeastern High School three days after injuring his shoulder, Jackson said he felt as if fellow junior Brady Voiers’ presence on the court would be more beneficial than his own.
NB found a way to hold off GH’s comeback attempt in the final few minutes with Jackson not at full strength — but still giving his team and coaches everything he could while sporting a shoulder brace that limited his range of motion.
“It was difficult. But I knew that Brady would give better minutes than I would, and I knew it was probably better for the team if I sat out,” Jackson said, of the GH game. “I couldn’t even pass, really.”
The Tigers’ rotation has went just seven-or-eight deep this postseason run, and Jackson’s injury hampered that in their regional semifinal battle.
Although his presence on the court for that two-point win wasn’t quite as impactful as their next game, it was his effort and preparation for a game that could have been his teammates’ last that motivated them to win — and play at a high level.
“The bond we have, I know that if they got hurt like that, they’d give it their all to be out there,” Jackson said. “We have four seniors, and I know if I was a senior and they were in my shoes, they’d give it everything they had.”
New Boston’s four-man senior class, as well as Jackson and Brady Voiers, have been influenced by former teammates like the now graduated Tyler Caldwell, Malachi Potts and Marcus Saunders during their high school careers.
Those former teammates helped show this year’s upperclassmen the importance of maturity on the court — something’s that’s paid off this tournament run.
“My freshman year with Tyler, my sophomore year with Mal and Marcus — they taught me a lot. I used to get really mad when I’d play, they told me just to breathe, keep my head high, and just play. Our junior class and seniors, I think we’re just really grown up and mature about the game.”
Three days after NB’s thrilling win to make its second Elite Eight in three seasons, Jackson was back in the Tigers’ starting lineup — and didn’t check out a single time.
He, Tanner Voiers, Kyle Sexton and Chase Clark played all 32 minutes of their 44-39 win over Berlin Hiland in the regional championship — quite literally laying it all on the line with a trip to the state tournament at stake.
And even though he scored just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, Jackson’s most efficient work came on the defensive end — where he was tasked with guarding BH’s Will Schlabach.
Schlabach hit four threes in the Hawks’ 75-32 win over the Tigers two years ago in the regional final, but wasn’t afforded quite as many opportunities this time around.
With Jackson guarding the senior and coach’s son for the majority of the night, he was held scoreless for the entire first half — and shot just 3-of-16 from the field for the entire game.
“Schlabach was a great player. I knew that if we were going to win this game, he was going to have to be face-guarded the whole time. If he would have scored 20 or close to it, it would have been really tough for us to win,” Jackson said. “I only had three points that game, but I really focused and gave it everything I had on defense.”
No Hawk scored more than Schlabach’s team-high nine points after his scoreless first half, as the Tigers held BH to a postseason-low point total in their five games.
Clark’s breakaway layup on a football pass from Tanner Voiers put the game out of reach for BH, and put the Tigers back into the state tournament for the first time in 61 years.
It was a moment Jackson and his teammates have dreamed about for as long as they can remember.
“That was surreal. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a little kid. Seeing all these teams go to The Convo (Ohio University Convocation Center), watching all those games. Being that close to going to state my freshman year and losing last year in the district semis put a fire under us,” Jackson said. “This year, I think we just wanted it more. Now we’re focused on Columbus Grove.”
As of Tuesday prior to their trip to Dayton for the state semis, Jackson said he’s close to feeling 100-percent — after that shoulder injury less than two weeks ago.
For the Tigers to make this a weekend-long trip to Dayton, and go farther than any NB team has in the program’s long history, Jackson says it’ll take another great defensive performance from he and his teammates against a fellow regional champion: Columbus Grove.
“They’re a great team. They shoot the ball well and they’re very smart. They have three really good, all-around players that we’ll need to stop. They’re a lot like us, maybe a little slower and I think we play better defense. If we just pick up on defense and be in attack mode all game, I think we’ll be in the state final.”
Tipoff for Friday’s state (Division IV) semifinal from the University of Dayton Arena is set for 2 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved