The North Jackson varsity girls basketball team watched a double-digit lead slip away late in the fourth quarter of the Class 4A Area 14 Championship game as second-seeded DAR cut the top-seeded Chiefs lead to four with 1:42 left in the game.
North Jackson head coach Tony Brown called a timeout and told his team they were going to have to find a way to win.
“I told them that if they wanted to be champions” Brown said, “they were going to need to find a way to win.”
No. 4-ranked North Jackson found a way to win its third straight area title.
Right after the timeout, Sarah Morgan converted a three-point play and Summer Varnum sank two free throws to put the game out of reach as the Chiefs defeated DAR 61-61 in the Class 4A Area 14 Tournament championship game Thursday night at North Jackson High School in Stevenson.
Brown said his team played a great game.
“I think we played very well on both sides of the ball. Defensively, we played as hard as we possibly could,” said Brown. “DAR played hard. Hats off to them, that’s the best they’ve played all year.
North Jackson (19-8) never trailed in the game and used a 15-3 run in the second quarter to extend its lead. The Chiefs led 11-6, 32-20 and 43-33 at the quarter breaks.
Three Chiefs scored double figures. Morgan led North Jackson with 21 points and Varnum added 15 while Delana Pierce had 12. Kassidy Allen led the way for DAR (14-16) with 20 points, and Brianna Bolt tacked on 18.
North Jackson will host a Class 4A Northeast Sub-regional game Monday night at 6:30 p.m. against Area 12 runner-up Fairview. DAR travels to play Area 12 champion Oneonta. Sub-regional winners advance to play Feb. 17 in the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State University.
The win was a school-record 19th victory for North Jackson.
Brown said his team has come a long way since staring the season four consecutive losses.
“When we started 0-4, I knew we had a long way to go,” said Brown. “I told the girls they took a major step tonight. They worked hard and I believed in them.”