Niagara Gazette — YOUNGSTOWN — Lewiston-Porter boys basketball trailed by seven with the clock ticking away when the home gym fell silent Friday night.
The Lancers’ top scorer, Craig Paige, had been silent, too, with just three points since starting the game with a monster first half.
That’s when Jernard Jackson played the loudest.
The soft-spoken sophomore guard sank four straight free-throws and scored eight of Lew-Port’s final nine points as the fourth-seeded Lancers defeated visiting No. 5 East Aurora, 60-55, in a Section VI Class A-2 quarterfinal matchup.
The Lancers will play in the sectional semifinals at Buffalo State one year after making it there for the first time in school history.
“Jernard is ... one of the most clutch players I’ve ever played with,” Paige said, glowing about his teammate’s step-up performance. “And to be so young. In the second half he stepped up when I kind of cooled off a bit. He kept this team going.”
Paige finished with a game-high 27 points, but he struggled into the fourth quarter after a 19-point first half.
But that’s when Jackson was at his best, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second half after East Aurora’s man defense hushed the hot hand of Lew-Port’s leading scorer.
“When the game is on the line, that’s the kid who I want to have the ball in his hands,” Lew-Port coach Matt Bradshaw said. “He went to the line and sank four free-throws in a row when the pressure was on. You can’t count him out. He’ll be there until the end.”
Lew-Port (12-7) got off to a quick start, thanks in large part to Paige’s sharp shooting, and took a 29-23 lead into the half. But the Blue Devils (9-10) answered, outscoring the Lancers 22-11 in a dominant third quarter.
The Lancers trailed by as many as eight points late into the fourth after they had held the lead for the entirety of the game.
But Lew-Port buckled down defensively down the stretch, led by Paige’s underrated defens, which held East Aurora’s top scorer, Brendan Cox, to just 10 points.
Joe Scirto chipped in nine points off three 3-pointers and Tyler Dietz also had six points for the Lancers.
East Aurora’s Grant Haffenden finished with a double-double and Michael Coatsworth led the team with 17 points.
After the game, Jackson was all smiles. He recalled the pep rallies and school buzz that came along with playing at Buffalo State first the first time last season.
“I’m just feeling so great right now,” said Jackson, sheepishly toeing the court beneath him as teammates approached to pat him on the back. “I just kept my head up and just kept shooting.”
He and the Lancers will shoot for a berth in the sectional finals at 7 p.m. Wednesday against top-seeded Amherst, which won its quarterfinal over No. 8 Lake Shore on Friday, 60-44.
“This is the first time Lew-Port’s ever been to Buffalo State back-to-back,” Bradshaw said. “We’re pretty excited about that.”
Class B-2 Quarterfinals
1-East 83, 9-Wilson 40
The Lakemen (6-14) ended their season against Buffalo’s East (16-3), the No. 7-ranked Class B school in New York State. Junior Kyle Bradley scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed eight boards, while Evan Shank added 12, all on 3-pointers. The game was the last for Wilson’s lone senior, Kevin Daunce.