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McKinley rallies to hand Jackson its first loss
Dec 13, 2013 11:57 PM
Repository sports writer
CANTON  McKinley would have been hard-pressed to win a game like this last season. The Bulldogs were too inexperienced in a league full of talented teams and exceptional players.
Now the Bulldogs appear poised to be a part of that group, too. 
McKinley rallied from a five-point third-quarter deficit Friday and held on to beat Jackson 82-77 in an entertaining Federal League game at Memorial Field House. 
A year after winning just seven games, the Bulldogs sit at 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the league. Their only loss — 67-62 at Cleveland Heights — came on a night when they trailed by as many as 19.
“We gave Jackson two good games a year ago, but when things got tough, we weren’t able to respond,” McKinley head coach Keith Noftz said. “This team responds.
“Tonight, we had a lot of chances to fold and we responded every time.”
The Bulldogs responded at a critical point in the third quarter after they fell behind 46-41. Back-to-back 3-pointers and a dunk from Paul Ortiz put them ahead 49-46.
McKinley responded early in the fourth quarter after Jackson tied the game. Marcellius Pittman led a 10-2 run which gave the Bulldogs a 68-60 lead.
The Bulldogs responded one final time in the dying seconds after the Bears rallied to within 78-77. Juleo Patterson each hit a pair of free throws to close out Jackson.
“Quality win, quality high school basketball game,” Noftz said. “I just had three college guys come up to me say the talent on this floor was outstanding. They’ve been watching games for awhile.”
Pittman finished with a game-high 27 points for McKinley. Ortiz poured in 17 points. Jalen Olds scored 18. Sam Burton finished eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Pittman converted his final seven shots and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“Pitt’s a gamer,” Noftz said. “When you put the lights on, Pitt’s ready to go.”
The Bears (3-1, 2-1) gave up just 56 and 45 points in decisive league wins over GlenOak and Perry. They couldn’t stop the Bulldogs.
“It was a good game, but we have to play better defense than that,” Jackson head coach Tim Debevec said. “Give them credit. They did a great job. They hustled and just beat us.
“Defensively we’ve got to get better. Eighty-two points is just too many.”
Jackson’s Evan Bailey scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half. Mitch Pugh finished with 13 points and Kyle Mottice added 11 for the Bears.
The Jackson win tips off a big week for the Bulldogs that also will see them face Hoover and Lake. What a difference a year has made for them thus far.
“We worked our tails off in the offseason,” Noftz said. “Our kids went through a 7-17 season last year and they did everything it takes to have a good year.
“Whether that happens or not, we just have to keep getting better, but we’ve strung together four pretty good games in a row.”
Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or
On Twitter: @mpopovichREP
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Edited: Dec 13, 2013 11:57 PM by Jeff Verbus
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McKinley rallies to hand Jackson its first loss