First Assembly Christian School boys’ varsity head basketball coach Dee Wilkes was left speechless following Monday night’s 65-62 home overtime win over White Station.
It wasn’t because he lost his voice or was exhausted from coaching after watching his young, talented team rally from a double-digit deficit to trade scores with a Spartans team that’s talented in the backcourt – Kody Hickerson, Marcus Crawford, and Porter Kelly – to eventually finishing them off in an extra four minutes of action.
Wilkes was left speechless because of how his young group grinded out a win that didn’t seem possible by how sluggish the Crusaders played in the first half.
It took heroic efforts from freshmen guards MJ Hayes and Cello Jackson, sophomore scoring Jacob Walker and important baskets from sophomore wing Kris Carroll to pull it off.
FACS was down by as many as 11 points in the first half and trailed for half of the third quarter before tying it up 35-all thanks to two made foul shots by Walker, who had 17 points and four assists. From that point on, both teams traded scores, with the waning seconds of the fourth quarter becoming breathtaking for both teams’ benches and fans of both programs.
“This is the second overtime game in a row, and I told them after the St. Benedict game, ‘You will either learn from it or it will get worse.’ We were down nine points at halftime, and I chewed them out a little bit,” Wilkes said. “I just told them that this is a defining point of the season. They have to come out and play.
“And they did. We started pushing the ball in transition and getting open shots. When we play together, we are a tough team to beat.”
A 3 from Walker tied the game at 53 then Jackson tied it up once more by knocking down two free throws with 25.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
In the extra period, Jackson took over, scoring six of his team’s 10 points to put White Station away for good.
That wasn’t the only time Jackson came up huge for the Crusaders. He made a nice bounce pass to Haynes (16 points and seven rebounds) as he was tip-toeing to the basket from the baseline. Jackson made another great read, this time a no-look pass, to Kingston Carroll for an uncontested layup.
“Cello is the type of player that can guard the other team’s best player. He can score in a variety of ways. He can go to the post; he can go to the point; he can shoot the 3. He can do it all,” Wilkes said about Jackson, who finished the game with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. “Just being a freshman, the sky’s the limit for him.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the state as a freshman, regardless of class. But, he’s a true leader. That guy gives it his all. He played the entire game and guarded the best player on the other team.”