Section 3AA boys basketball finals: JCC wins to return to state
AARON HAGEN Daily Globe MARSHALL -- When Nico Feroni was young, he knew his class had a chance to be special. Turns out, the senior on Jackson County Central's boys basketball team was right. After qualifying for the state tournament for the firs...
MARSHALL -- When Nico Feroni was young, he knew his class had a chance to be special.
Turns out, the senior on Jackson County Central’s boys basketball team was right.
After qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in program history a year ago, the Huskies are going back to state.
The Huskies defeated Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta 80-71 Thursday night in the Section 3AA championship.
“I moved here in sixth grade and I started playing basketball my first year in seventh grade,” said Feroni, one of nine seniors for JCC. “They were playing well before I moved here, 80 to 100 games every summer. I didn’t realize we were as good as we were. When I did, I realized we had a chance to do something special when we got older. We’ve been playing 80 games a summer, practicing with our parents taking us to tournaments. To be able to do it as a senior and a section title, it’s one of the better feelings I’ve had.”
The Huskies finished second in Class AA a year ago, falling to Braham in the state final. That loss motivated JCC.
“We had a lot of guys coming back and we knew we could make it to this point,” JCC’s Jacob Christopher said. “After we lost the Braham game last year, I told a reporter we felt like we had something to prove next year. We’re on our way now.”
Christopher scored a game-high 25 points against the Tigers.
“The key thing with me is staying aggressive and keeping confident. Last night I was in the gym late because I knew it was the last go-around,” said Christopher, who shot for an hour after practice. “It really paid off today. My teammates got me the ball and I think we shared the ball really well this game.”
Ryan Christopher had 18 points for JCC, while Feroni, who saw limited minutes during last year’s state run, scored 15 points for the Huskies.
“Compared to last year, I’ve tripled my playing time. I’ve had to step up in big situations. I was more of a role player last year,” Feroni said. “Coming into this season and even last season, (head coach Trent Sukalski) told me that I was going to have to be ready to step up next year. I was going to have to fill big shoes. Over the summer, I worked in the weight room, I put on like 20 pounds before football and got extra shooting and extra running in. It’s really paid off. To be able to put the ball in the basket and play good defense has really helped this team.”
JCC led 10-2 early in the game, but the Tigers’ Camden Arndt kept MA/C-A in the game. Arndt scored 13 of the team’s first 16 points and finished with 21 in the game. The Tigers took a 19-16 lead, but the teams were tied at 23. Ryan Christopher and Easton Bahr made back-to-back shots for the Huskies as they led 34-28. That advantage would go to 43-29 after a Rudy Voss triple. JCC led 45-37 at halftime.
The Tigers were within three points, 60-57 following a shot by Lukus Manska (12 points) with 12 minutes to go.
“They could not stop making shots,” Sukalski said. “We were playing good and I was like, ‘When are they going to start missing shots?’ They never missed shots. It was hard to break away. They played really well and put a lot of pressure on us. But give our guys a lot of credit, we kept scoring too.”
MA/C-A couldn’t take the lead as Feroni answered back quickly with a basket and Ryan Christopher made two free throws and followed with a shot as the Huskies led 66-57.
“The story is kind of perseverance,” Jacob Christopher said. “In the last game, we were up by 15 and got it down to four, but we pushed through and finished it off. This was kind of the same way, we were up in that eight to 10 range and we couldn’t break away. But we held on and it feels good.”
Arndt answered with a 3 before Feroni made a shot. JCC maintained a 10-point lead late before a Jacob Christopher basket gave it a 12-point advantage. The Tigers had it down within seven, 78-71 following a Jacob Zosel 3, but Bahr put the finishing touches on the victory with a basket in the final minute.
“Our kids are outstanding,” Sukalski said. “I just love our kids and I’m so happy for our kids and so proud of our kids. It’s all about them and what they do and the work they put in. They are very deserving of this because they work awfully hard year round to be this good.”
The state tournament begins Wednesday with seedings to be decided this weekend.
“We’re going to go up there confident and know anything is possible after last year,” Jacob Christopher said.
Morris/Area Chokio-Alberta 37 71Jackson County Central 45 80