Kedarrius Buckingham keyed a 6-0 Jacksonville run with just over a minute to go in the game that enabled the Fight'n Indians to remain undefeated (27-0) and come away with a 50-49 District 16-4A win over John Tyler.
The long anticipated and hotly contested affair was played before a sell out crowd at the JHS Gymnasium Tuesday evening.
The No. 12-ranked Indians now stand alone at the top of the league standings with a conference record of 4-0, and are a game ahead of Whitehouse and two games in front of John Tyler (8-14, 2-2).
Among the many subplots was the fact that Jacksonville head coach Brent Kelley earned his 100th-career victory in just his fourth year as a head coach on Tuesday.
The Tribe win was the first time that Jacksonville has beaten the Lions during the regular season in the Kelley era.
Jacksonville got behind by as many as 13 points, 33-20, in the early stages of the third quarter, but the Tribe never surrendered.
“We came back from being down by 13, they (John Tyler) went up again and we bounced back and we seemed to have something left for everything they came at us with in the second half,” Kelley said. “I am really proud of these kids. They just refused to lose (Tuesday) and they got the stops late that we needed and made the plays on offense when needed against a very good John Tyler team.”
The Tribe closed substantial ground in the third, with the Lions owning a 37-34 lead at the start of the final segment.
Still trailing by five, Jacksonville made its final push beginning with 2:14 to go in the tilt when Buckingham muscled a shot in from down low that sliced the John Tyler lead to 47-44.
Daytron Thompson then came up with a steal on John Tyler's subsequent trip down the floor and promptly fired the ball to Raybon Riden who cashed in with an easy breakaway layup that reduced the Lion margin to one point with 1:51 to go.
Thompson and Riden led Jacksonville in scoring with 14 points apiece, with 10 of Thompson's points coming in the second half.
He scored eight of the Tribe's 12 third-quarter points by himself.
“I knew that we needed a spark after we got down by 13 right after halftime and I took it upon myself to give it everything I had to help my team win,” Thompson said.
Jacksonville then moved into the lead, 48-47, on a Buckingham stick in that came with 1:17 to play.
The shot capped off a 6-0 Indian run and was the first time the Indians had led since the 2:27 mark of the first quarter.
Jacksonville expanded the lead to 50-47 with 30.8 seconds left when Londedric Taylor drained a pair of shots from the free throw line.
After John Tyler's Fred Ross added a couple of free throws with 22 ticks showing on the clock the Indian lead was cut to 50-49.
The Lions had one last opportunity to get the win, but an off-balanced shot from near the top of the key in the closing seconds by Keaunte Humber as the horn sounded fell short, just as the Lions' bid for victory did.
Buckingham earned a double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) on the night and matched strides with the talented Lion post players all night, particularly in the fourth stanza when he went 4-of-4 from the field.
“This was a hard-fought win,” Buckingham said. “I think we got the best looks late and made our shots late and they (John Tyler) didn't.”
Jacksonville shot 72.7-percent (8-of-11) from the field in the fourth quarter, compared to the Lions hitting only 38.4-percent (5-of-13) from the field during the same time.”
Fred Ross led the Lions in scoring with 11 points and Tyus Bowser added 10 points and came up with a game-high 17 rebounds.
Thompson added that he felt his team's overall conditioning advantage also played a big part in the Indian victory.
“We knew they (John Tyler) had some very good athletes on their team,” Thompson said. “But I think that we had the basketball legs and that they started to wear down late in the game.”
Jacksonville travels to Whitehouse (19-6, 3-1) on Friday. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Wildcat Arena.
NOTES — Jacksonville made it a clean sweep over the Lions as the Tribe eclipsed John Tyler 46-33 in the junior varsity game...Trent Sansom pumped in 17 points to spark the Indians...The Tribesmen crushed the Lions, 63-42, in the 9th-grade affair with Jacolby Robinson leading the way with 18 points...Both of the Jacksonville sub-varsity teams are in first place in the district standings as well.