Jaguars hold off Lions, 51-44, to start basketball season 2-0


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JACKSON — An early season rivalry showdown took place at Jackson Memorial High School on Dec. 17 between the Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty High School boys basketball teams.

For the second straight season, the Jaguars reigned supreme against the crosstown rival Lions to improve to 2-0 this winter.

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Seniors Respect Tyleek (21 points) and Keith Adame (16 points) led Jackson Memorial to a 51-44 victory over Jackson Liberty in its 2022-23 home opener.

“We are very grateful we are 2-0,” Jackson Memorial Coach Randy Holmes said. “It’s tough to win a game, especially games like this when you are playing a town rival and there is a lot going on. If you don’t come into these games focused, things can unravel and you can lose sight of the goal at hand.”

There was no slowing down the Jaguars as the game got underway. Jackson Memorial used a full-court press to get its offense in rhythm and led 21-3 at the end of the first quarter.

“That’s what we expect to happen when we are all playing together,” Adame said of the team’s strong start.

Adame was a big part of the team’s fast start as he connected on three three-point field goals in the first quarter.

The Jaguars led 30-14 with 3:00 to play in the second quarter before the Lions went on a 5-0 run to trim the Jaguars’ lead to 30-19 at halftime.

The Lions continued to chip away at the lead in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 36-31 with 1:00 to play, but that is when Tyleek led a response for the Jaguars.

The senior guard tallied a bucket and moments later dished a nice bounce pass to Samir Padilla on an inbounds play that Padilla converted into a layup to give the Jaguars a 40-32 lead as the third quarter ended.

Tyleek credited his basketball IQ for helping him to execute the inbounds pass, saying, “I have been practicing passing and that (inbounds) play a lot in practice.”

In the fourth quarter, Tyleek continued to propel the Jaguars. His basket with 5:20 to play gave the Jaguars a 44-33 lead. Through two games, Tyleek leads the Jaguars with 39 points.

The Jaguars’ lead grew to 46-34 with 3:30 to play as Adame drove to the rim for a layup.

The Lions did not stop fighting and tried to mount a comeback as the clock ticked down. Sophomore Jayson King buried his third three-point field goal to pull the Lions within 48-40 with 1:38 to play.

After Tyleek scored on a layup following a steal by Padilla to push the lead to 50-40 with 1:00 to play, King answered for the Lions by going 4-4 from the free throw line to trim the deficit to 50-44.

That was as close as the Lions would get as the Jaguars added a free throw for the 51-44 final score. Jackson Memorial improved to 5-2 against Jackson Liberty over the last seven seasons.

King led Jackson Liberty with 21 points and junior Lukas Latvys contributed eight points.

Despite falling to 0-2, Jackson Liberty Coach Don Connor was proud of his players’ effort against a strong Jackson Memorial team and called his squad’s performance a “moral victory.”

The third year coach believes his young squad, which has no senior players and only two returning starters in King and Dylan Teopaco, has the ability to make a statement in the Shore Conference C-South Division.

“This is just the beginning,” Connor said. “I feel like we are going to get better every single day and in every single game if our kids continue to buy into what we are trying to teach them.”

As for the Jaguars, Holmes said he thinks the best thing about his team’s 2-0 start is the fact his young men have not played their best basketball yet.

The players have high expectations after Jackson Memorial went 20-8 and reached the semifinals of the state sectional tournament a year ago.

“The sky is the limit for this team if we play more together and show more leadership,” Holmes said. “We are still a work in progress. We have to handle our business every single game because we are going to get the best from each opponent we face on our schedule.”

On Dec. 20, Jackson Memorial will host Toms River South High School and Jackson Liberty will host Monmouth Regional High School of Tinton Falls.


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