It’s not who starts the game, it’s who finishes it that counts the most.
On Tuesday, Jackson was a finisher. Jackson scored all 10 of his points in a 3 1/2-minute span near the end of the game to lift the top-seeded Hagerstown Community College men’s basketball team to an 84-72 win over College of Southern Maryland at HCC’s athletic complex in the play-in round of the Maryland JuCo Conference tournament.
Jackson was one of four reserves who saved HCC from being a first-round casualty after winning the conference title.
“Our reserves who have been waiting for their opportunity really stepped up,” said HCC coach Barry Brown. “We have been playing a lot of road games lately and decided we needed to be deeper on the bench. Today, it all paid off.”
More than HCC imagined, considering Southern Maryland entered the game as a gem in 16th seed’s clothing. CSM had defeated Prince George’s and lost by two to Garrett — a team that defeated HCC — in the closing stages of the regular season.
“Coming into the game, I knew this would be a dogfight,” Brown said. “I have a lot of respect for that team, but if we were going to have a game like this, this was the time to have it. We won’t be able to do this anymore.”
Southern Maryland (3-21) earned the respect in a back-and-forth matchup for much of the game. CSM played HCC (23-4) to seven ties and 16 lead changes through the first 34:30 of the game. Neither team led by more than seven points.
HCC held a 68-66 lead when Jackson kicked in with the 30-second starring role he worked for all season. He started with a pull-up 3-pointer off the left wing at the 4:42 mark and followed with an 18-footer in the same area at 4:12 to give HCC a 73-68 lead.
“My shot wasn’t going the way I wanted,” Jackson said. “I asked (assistant coach Chad) Brashears what I was doing wrong. He told me to step into my shot. I just stepped into it.”
HCC took care of business from there, finishing the game on an 11-4 run. HCC wore down CSM, which was forced to scrap its tight 2-3 zone defense.
HCC’s bench outscored the starters 47-37 for the game. D’Quan Lynch led the reserves with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Arthur Hairston added 12 and Alister Chisholm had 10 to go with Jackson’s contributions. Devin Miller was the top scorer with 18 points.
Brian Dixon led Southern Maryland with 24 points, including six 3s, while Craig Gaylord added 23.
HCC will face the winner of Montgomery/Rockville and Garrett on Friday at 5 p.m. at Frederick Community College.
HCC 84, Southern Maryland 72
SOUTHERN MARYLAND (3-21)
Gaylord 8 5-6 23, Vanderwest 0 3-5 3, Dixon 9 0-0 24, Brannon 4 6-9 13, Meldzienski 3 0-0 8 Totals 24 14-20 72.
Lynch 6 2-4 15, Scott 0 1-2 1, Chisholm 4 2-2 10, Miller 7 4-5 18, White 5 0-0 10, Handanovic 2 0-0 6, Jackson 4 0-0 10, Hairston 6 0-0 12, Coates 1 0-0 2 Totals 35 9-13 84.
Halftime — HCC 40-39. 3-point goals — Southern Maryland 10 (Dixon 6, Gaylor 2, Meldzienski 2), HCC 5 (Handanovic 2, Jackson 2, Lynch). Technical Foul — Dixon.