Jackson Smith hadn’t planned on putting on an offensive show.
But Sandwich needed big plays from him on Thursday afternoon, so he went ahead and delivered during a 45-38 victory over Mendota in Plano’s 54th Annual Christmas Classic.
Smith was virtually unstoppable, pouring in 29 of his team’s points and doing so efficiently as he shot 11-of-15 from the field.
“I was able to get open at times and some of that came while running the baseline,” he said. “I got some open threes, which opened somethings up and then got to the free throw line. I just tried to do whatever I could do to make it difficult for them to defend us.”
Sandwich was frigid from the field in a 51-40 loss to LaSalle-Peru on Dec. 28. Amazingly, the Indians struggled even more while still finding a way to beat Mendota. Although Smith was sizzling, the rest of the team shot just 18 percent (5-of-28).
Making big defensive plays, forcing 16 turnovers and holding Mendota to just 28 percent shooting (12-of-43) proved to be difference-makers, especially in the decisive fourth quarter. Smith only scored six of his points in the final quarter, but the Indians didn’t need many as they held Mendota to just five points, with their lone field goal coming on Cameron Phalen’s layup with 11 seconds remaining.
“We didn’t hit some shots and I think it’s a closer game if we knocked down some of our jumpers,” Mendota coach Jan Thompson said. “Our game is getting to the basket and we did at times, but missed too many. And then there way too much of (Smith). He went off. We didn’t do a good job of controlling where he was at, but he also worked his butt off to get open and deserved the points that he got.”
Sandwich led 33-27 midway through the third quarter but went scoreless the rest of the way while Mendota got a pair of baskets from Blake Stamberger and another from Joe LaShonse (18 points) to tie the game at 33-33.
Smith split a pair of free throws to open the fourth quarter before delivering the biggest blows of the game, back-to-back 3-pointers during a 22-second stretch to make it a 40-33 game with 4:01 left.
While Smith’s offensive heroics were huge, the defensive effort by the Indians – especially in the fourth quarter – was pivotal.
“We were just getting on them and staying in front of them better,” Smith said. “We forced some turnovers, kept them from making plays and then we were able to make some plays of our own.”
Jordan Isham missed all four of his shots for the Indians, but dished out eight assists and collected six rebounds. Jimmy Braddish added six points while Smith and Jake Ropp both snagged five rebounds each.