By DAVE HANNEMAN
BOWLING GREEN — Zeb Jackson had just an “average” game for Maumee Valley Country Day on Tuesday.
Those averages, though, are pretty impressive.
Jackson came into Tuesday’s matchup with Columbus Grove averaging 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The 6-foot-3 junior guard, who has verbally committed to play college ball for Michigan, hit all three of those numbers right on the nose in leading the Hawks to a 58-48 victory in a Division IV regional semifinal played at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
“Obviously, having a kid like this one sitting next to me was huge,” said MVCD coach Rob Conover. “Especially in the fourth quarter.”
Columbus Grove overcame a 30-25 halftime deficit and led 36-34 entering the fourth quarter after Tayt Birnesser scored off one steal and Alex Schneider converted off another.
Then Jackson took over.
Jackson popped in a 16-foot jumper to tie the game, then nailed a 23-footer from the top of the key to put the Hawks up 39-36.
“Jackson’s a nice player,” said Columbus Grove coach Chris Sautter. “He’s got a little bit of everything in his arsenal: he gets to the rim, he has a nice mid-range pull-up jumper, he’s got range out to 24, 25 feet. … If you try to get up in him, he goes by you. If somebody runs at him, he finds the open man.
“He’s not going to play in the Big Ten for nothing.”
Blake Reynolds converted two free throws to trim Grove’s deficit back to one, but Jackson answered with two from the line to counter that move.
Reynolds added another free throw with 6:01 left in the game, and Grove tied it at 41 when Grayson Flores drove the lane and scored.
Before Grove’s fans could settle back into their seats, MVCD’s J.R. Lumsden broke the tie on the other end. Jackson hit another short jump shot, then a left-handed scoop off a drive to the basket to push the lead back to six at 47-41 with 3:13 on the clock.
Reynolds would score twice and Birnesser knocked down a 3-pointer in those final three minutes. But Jackson, Dez Jett and Lumsden would convert 9 of 10 free throws to keep MVCD’s cushion intact.
Lumsden added 11 points, and Jett and Stephen Coleman had 10 each for MVCD. The Hawks (19-7) will face Convoy Crestview (25-1) in Friday’s 7 p.m. regional final at the Stroh Center, with that winner advancing to next week’s state tournament in Columbus.
Reynolds had a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double for Columbus Grove. Birnesser added 12 points for the Bulldogs, who finished 19-6 with four seniors on the roster but just one in the starting lineup.
“Our kids really battled,” said Sautter, who has taken the program from nine wins to 11 and this year’s 19 in his three years as head coach.
“We were up by two going into the fourth quarter and I said that’s where we needed to be. But after Hop (junior guard Evan Hopkins) went down (to a first-quarter injury) we pretty much played five guys the whole second half. In the fourth quarter shots we normally hit were coming up a little short. We just did not have the legs anymore.”
Grove won’t be bringing back a championship or runner-up trophy from the regional tournament. But the Bulldogs, who finished as co-champions of the Northwest Conference and the Putnam County League, still filled a few spots in the trophy case.
“The season never ends well except for four teams,” Sautter said. “But we have absolutely nothing to hang our heads about. We were co-champions in one league, runner-up in another league, we won a district title and got to the regional.
“Shoot, I have nothing but great things to say about this group of kids.”
MAUMEE VALLEY COUNTRY DAY (19-7)
Jett 2-7 5-6–10, Jackson 10-21 4-4–25, Coleman 5-10 0-0–10, Lumsden 3-7 5-6–11, Chatman 1-6 0-0–2. Frankhauser 0-1 0-0–0, Kuhl 0-0 0-0–0, Szollosi 0-0 0-0–0, Kaminski 0-0 0-0–0, Ziegler 0-0 0-0–0, Greenbaum 0-0 0-0–0. TOTALS: 21-52 14-16 — 58.
COLUMBUS GROVE (19-6)
Reynolds 5-12 5-6–15, Birnesser 4-15 1-2–12, Hopkins 0-0 0-0–0, Clement 3-4 0-0–8, Flores 2-6 1-1–5, Mason 0-0 0-0–0, Watkins 0-0 0-0–0, Hoffman 0-0 0-0–0, Halker 0-0 0-0–0, Schneider 4-9 0-0–8, Johnson 0-0 0-0–0. TOTALS: 18-46 6-8 — 48.
Maumee Valley 14 16 4 24 — 58
Columbus Grove 11 14 11 12 — 48.
3-POINT GOALS: Maumee Valley 2-8 (Jett 1-1, Jackson 1-4, Chatman 0-2, Frankhauser 0-1.; Columbus Grove 6-17 (Birnesser 3-10, Clement 2-2, Flores 1-2, Schneider 0-3.
REBOUNDS: Maumee Valley 33 (Jackson 8, Coleman 8, Jett 6); Columbus Grove 27 (Reynolds 13, Birnesser 5).
TURNOVERS: Maumee Valley 7, Columbus Grove 10.