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Jackson builds lead, fails to hold on vs. Mules
SIKESTON, Mo. -- Second halves were not kind to the Jackson boys basketball team during the SEMO Conference tournament.
Jackson, for the second time in three games, could not hold onto a halftime lead. Friday it cost the Indians a shot at the consolation title.
Seventh-seeded Poplar Bluff, which never led until the third quarter, rallied to beat the fourth-seeded Indians 63-55.
"I think we played good in the first half. We executed," Jackson senior forward Luke Stevens said. "The second half we just came out a little flat. They hit some shots."
The Indians' 26-22 lead at the break paled in comparison to their 19-point halftime bulge against Notre Dame on Monday.
Jackson (2-2) lost that first-round matchup before routing Dexter by 26 points in Tuesday's consolation semifinal.
Coach Darrin Scott thought the Indians, even though they led at the intermission, weren't really all that sharp during Friday's opening half, especially offensively.
"The first half we didn't play well. We forced shots," Scott said. "I thought we guarded them pretty well in the first half and that's why we were ahead."
Jackson scored the game's first seven points. It was 14-12 after one quarter and the Indians built a pair of eight-point second-period leads, including 26-18 in the late going.
Stacy Gipson, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, scored the final four points of the half for the Mules as they trimmed the deficit to 26-22.
Poplar Bluff began the third quarter with an 8-2 run over the opening two minutes, taking its first lead of the contest at 30-28.
The Indians briefly forged a 30-30 tie but Gipson's two free throws put the Mules back on top 32-30. They never relinquished the lead.
"Poplar Bluff was like I expected," Scott said. "They were tough and guarded hard. They competed."
Poplar Bluff wound up outscoring Jackson 25-14 in the third quarter to lead 47-40.
The Mules opened up a 55-42 bulge with under four minutes left in the game but Jackson had a run left.
Junior guard Karsen King's steal and layup brought the Indians to within 58-52 with 55 seconds left.
Senior guard Braxton McDowell's 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining made it 60-55.
But Poplar Bluff hit 3 of 5 free throws in the final 25 seconds to hold off the Indians.
"We made a little run at the end. Obviously it wasn't good enough," Stevens said.
Junior guard Josh Daume led Jackson with 14 points. Stevens and King added 10 apiece.
"Our execution on offense was poor. We have to get better at that," Scott said. "It looked like we were in a little bit of panic mode shooting the ball. We have to play quick but not in a hurry."
Gipson paced all scorers with 22 points.
"He played well around the basket," Scott said
Despite Jackson losing two of three games in the tournament and finishing short of its seeding, Stevens said the rugged event proved beneficial for the Indians.
"It shows you what your strengths and weaknesses are," Stevens said.
POPLAR BLUFF (63) -- Malik Metcalf 2, Joseph Eyler 9, Patrick Tilman 2, Lucas Tibbs 6, Ryan Brittingham 6, Stacy Gipson 22, Brandon Stuckenschneider 4, Chris Stocks 10, Lance Gray 2. FG 22, FT 17-21, F 17. (3-pointers: Brittingham 2. Fouled out: none)
JACKSON (55) -- Josh Daume 14, Braxton McDowell 5, Josh Friess 1, Braden Wendel 2, Karsen King 10, Connor Shepard 2, Blake Reynolds 7, Brandon Lueders 4, Luke Stevens 10. FG 21, FT 9-14, F 15. (3-pointers: Daume 1, McDowell 1, King 1, Stevens 1. Fouled out: Stevens)