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East beats Kapaun as basketball season begins

Published Dec. 6 at 11:43 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 7 at 5:16 p.m.

Zach Jackson struggled with his confidence at times during his sophomore season at East. He was lanky, borderline skinny, and while he thrived defensively, he never found a level of comfort on the offensive end.

“I was in the gym all the time (in the offseason),” Jackson said. “People told me to get my confidence up because I wasn’t a scorer at all last year. They told me I needed to play how I was supposed to play.”

Jackson’s offense shouldn’t be much of a question after he scored East’s first nine points in Friday night’s 55-50 season opening win over visiting Kapaun. He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

Jackson, who is 6-foot-3, not only played with more confidence, he also looks different from his sophomore season. His body reveals a stronger physique, and when he was banging in the lane for rebounds he held his own against bigger, more physical players.

“Zach’s gotten longer, he’s stronger, he’s jumping well,” East coach Joe Jackson said. “Overall, he’s playing very good basketball. He’s a difference-maker for us right now. He’s going to be one of the top defenders in the city.

“You can’t sleep on his perimeter game at all. He’s taking people off the bounce, and he’s got a good-looking three-point shot. He didn’t hit as many tonight as we would have liked. He can shoot it, too. He’s going to be a tough matchup for a lot of people.”

Jackson’s second basket came after teammate Tyas Martin got a steal and found Jackson streaking to the basket for a lay-up. Jackson was fouled and made the free throw for a 6-0 lead at the 6:16 mark. Two minutes later he hit a three from the left corner.

East had plenty of positives, including Martin’s nine points and eight rebounds in his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that shortened his junior season. Sophomore Xavier Kelly (6-5) added six points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

There was also the fan support from the East and Kapaun student sections, who wore yellow shirts to honor East junior Terence Caw’s brother, Lorenzo, a senior who is battling bone cancer.

“We’re trying to support (Lorenzo),” said Martin of the basketball team wearing yellow shooting shirts. “I know he’s going through a hard time, going through chemotherapy. We wanted to stay with Terrence and help him through a hard time.”

Defensively, Jackson was far from happy with the Aces, who squandered big leads twice. Up 16-10, they allowed Kapaun to go on a 10-2 run for the Crusaders’ first lead at 2:32 to go in the first half.

After a back-and-forth stretch that included Kapaun leading 27-26 at the half after Brock Monty made two free throws in in the final second, East again took a big lead.

The Aces held Kapaun scoreless for more than five minutes, and with 5:37 remaining, Kelly scored for a 47-36 lead.

Kapaun responded again, though, when Thomas O’Connor made consecutive baskets and Atir Cherne got a steal and a layup to get within five with 3:33 to go.

Cherne finished with 13 points, O’Connor 12, Devin Dempsey 11, Paul Patton 10 and Nick Auer had eight rebounds.

“I think defensively, when you build the lead, you want to hang on and close a little bit,” Jackson said. “We had some defensive breakdowns.… We did a great job of not fouling, not getting ourselves in foul trouble. Late in the game we were sitting with two team fouls, but our pressure (defense) is not where it needs to be for East basketball.”

East’s defense was sharp, though, in the final 35 seconds as Kapaun had to force up two wide three-pointers. Jackson made two free throws with 11 seconds to go for a seven-point lead.

Despite the loss, Kapaun coach John Cherne wasn’t panicked.

“I have one returner,” he said. “It’s the first varsity game for every player. It’s Game 1 of 24.”

Kapaun81991450
East1214171255

Kapaun: Cherne 5 1-2 13, Patton 4 0-0 10, O’Connor 5 0-0 12, Dempsey 4 3-3 11, Monty 1 2-2 4.

East: Jackson 6 4-5 17, Kelly 3 0-2 6, McGairty 2 0-0 4, Martin 4 1-3 9, Caw 1 0-1 2, Fralin 2 0-0 4, Champion 1 2-3 5, Edwards 0 2-2 2, Mutazammil 2 2-2 6.

East fans

East's Tyas Martin

East's Zach Jackson

East coach Joe Jackson

Kapaun fans