By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — De Allen, who keeps stats for Gardendale’s boys basketball team (among many other things), looked up at the scoreboard and grinned at the Rockets’ early 6-0 lead over visiting Clay-Chalkville.
“Get a picture of that,” he joked. “That’s probably the last lead we’ll have all night.”
Given that the Cougars had previously thumped Gardendale twice by mercy-rule margins this season, Allen had reason to think that way. But on this night, he was wrong.
The Rockets did indeed give up the lead halfway through the second period, but came back late and won the game on a putback by Michael Sadler at the buzzer, for a 60-58 victory Thursday night.
That game-winning shot came after sophomore guard Juan Jackson stole the ball as the Cougars were attempting to set up for one last shot in the closing seconds. Jackson drove for a lay-up that missed, but Sadler was trailing and got the rebound, which he calmly shot for the win.
Jackson led the charge in the second half that put the Rockets back in contention. Of the 34 points the team scored in the second half, Jackson had 19 of them — four 3-pointers on four attempts plus seven foul shots. He scored 25 points for the night to lead all scorers, and was a perfect 11-for-11 overall at the foul line.
Jackson brought the game to the outside when center Trey Evans got in foul trouble early. Evans got back into form late, and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
It was a relief for Rocket coach Ryan Griffin, who had previously seen his squad fold its tent late against the Cougars.
“We’ve been ‘hot-clocked’ by them in what should have legitimately been 14- or 16-point games, and we’ve had a little issue with giving up and not playing hard to the end,” Griffin said. “That drives me up the wall… I told them before the game that they’re not 30 points better than us, and that we had to send them a message that they were going to have to play us all 32 minutes tonight. At the very least we could say that, even if it hadn’t been for that shot at the end.”
Sean Burrell led the Cougars (13-3) with 17 points, but was held to just five in the second half and a lone free throw in the fourth period. Marcus Baldwin scored 12 points and Cory Judkins 10 for Coach Daniel Foy’s team.