By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
The clock finally struck midnight for the Jackson Christian High School boys basketball team Monday.
In a season during which the Royals flew by the seat of their gym shorts to pull off comeback wins after a number of slow starts, they came up one possession short in a 53-52 Class D regional semifinal loss to Taylor Baptist Park (19-5) at Hillsdale College.
The Wildcats’ dominance inside was too much for the Royals to overcome with their long-distance propensity, and a desperation 3-point attempt that missed at the buzzer was the final shot of the season for Jackson Christian (16-8).
“It just wasn’t meant to be,” Jackson Christian coach Bob Stanton said. “You know, the Lord has a reason for us to win and a reason for us to lose so it wasn’t meant to be.”
An often-changing Baptist Park defense limited the Royals to just 29 percent shooting from the field, including 7-for-27 from beyond the arc, but it was a pair of senior forwards who ultimately led the Wildcats.
Jon Garcia had 23 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and four assists, while frontcourt mate Adam Thompson tallied 18 points, six boards and four assists.
“They were getting a lot of points down the middle there, and we weren’t getting a body on them,” Stanton said. “(Jon Garcia) got a lot from 2 or 3 feet from the basket because we weren’t putting a body on him.”
Despite their trouble in the paint the Royals showcased the heart and grit that earned them league and district crowns this year.
Down 37-26, Jackson Christian finished the third quarter on a 9-0 run, led by the most unlikely of heroes.
Freshman Trevor Perkin, a junior-varsity call-up, made an acrobatic double-pump layup and three crucial 3-pointers down the stretch, the third giving his team a 52-51 lead with 1:01 to play.
“He won’t back down to anyone and he just plays with so much determination. He’ll be an outstanding high school basketball player and he stepped up when we needed it.
Thompson made a beautiful move down low on the ensuing possession to hit what ended up being the game-winning shot.
After Blake Williams had a shot blocked and the Wildcats missed a pair of free throws with 18.1 seconds remaining, Stanton let his boys play out the final possession.
After failing to frantically get the ball in to the post, the Royals were forced to settle for a heavily defended 3-point heave from Perkin that fell just short.
“I just decided let’s go, we’ve been having some good movement it seemed like so let’s go for it without the timeout,” Stanton said. “I’m second-guessing myself right now, and I told the JV coach I won’t sleep tonight because I didn’t call that timeout.”
Perkin finished with 11 points, while Patrick Robey finished with 15 and nine rebounds before fouling out in the final contest of his career.
Williams pitched in 12, but no other Royal scored more than five.
Despite the sour taste Monday’s loss will leave in Stanton’s mouth he said he will greatly miss his five seniors next year, including the floor general Robey.
“I hate to see him leave and hopefully he can go to the next level,” he said. “He was the heart and soul of the team but the other four seniors…they played just as big a part day-to-day.”