FORT WAYNE— After an 18-8 explosion to open the ACAC semi-final at the Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night, the Jets could not maintain their scoring prowess and the Garrett Railroaders escaped with a 54-49 victory to move on to the finals.
Woodlan awaits Garrett in tomorrow morning's final back in Fort Wayne as they defeated 2012 champion Bluffton in the first game of the double-header ensuring a new champion not named Bluffton, Leo or Heritage for the first time in 16 years.
Central has not won the tournament title since 1976 despite winning the regular season ACAC title two years running.
The Jets came on strong in the first quarter with Blade Kable stroking three of his four triples in the frame for nine points. After his second three, sophomore Jonah Tijerina followed suit with a three-bagger on the wing for a big 13-8 lead. After a big stop on the other end, Kable connected from the corner to push the lead to 16-8.
In the closing seconds of the quarter, Hayden Black drove the lane on the left side, spun, then scooped a fancy lay-in for the 18-8 advantage as Central closed the frame on an 8-0 run.
The Railroaders' defense locked up the Jets in the second mounting a nice comeback that began with a triple from Kordell Kessler and ended with the sophomore as he stroked another to give them a 23-20 advantage capping a 15-2 run. Justin McCoy, the Railroaders' leading scorer at 20+ per game added five in the frame.
Coach Aaron McClure's defensive game plan worked last week in the Jets' victory over Garrett holding McCoy to just seven points. The junior had 15 in the win at the Coliseum.
"I felt like we made other guys beat us again tonight," McClure noted. "McCoy is averaging more than 20 points a game but against us it's like 11 points in two games so I'm pretty pleased with our effort defensively."
Anthony Spangler's three-pointer with a minute left in the half was the Jets' only field goal of the second as they trailed 25-23 at the break.
The teams played even in the third with Garrett holding a 40-39 advantage heading into the final eight minutes and neither team led by more than six points in the fourth.
The difference in the fourth quarter seemed to come on the rebounding for the Railroaders. Despite poor shooting, Garrett had several second opportunities after shots.
"A lot of offensive rebounds for them tonight," admitted McClure. "We did a nice job of keeping them off in the first half but then the bounces started to go their way and they got a lot of second opportunities."
In the game, Garrett out-rebounded Central 30-14.