ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For the past seven days Izaha Jackson (Brooklyn, N.Y.) refused to forget the past.
With the defeat in last year’s regional final still fresh in his mind, the Monroe Community College Tribune channeled his efforts and those of his teammates.
The result will be a trip to Rhode Island next weekend and a spot in the NJCAA Division II District II championship.
Jackson scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half to earn tournament MVP as Monroe defeated the Jamestown Community College Jayhawks, 87-83 in the 2016 Region 3 Division II Championship.
The sophomore guard connected on 7-of-15 shots from the floor while handing out three assists and collecting two steals to lead Monroe to its third regional title in four years and eighth since 2000.
“Last year we got here and lost by a tip in,” Jackson said recalling the 75-74 loss to Genesee Community College. “I told the guys the whole week through practice even through Saturday’s game, I don’t want to feel that again. We can’t go through that again.”
The sophomore guard hit 4-of-8 from behind the arc for the night. His triple from the left wing with 10:22 remaining gave Monroe a lead at 63-60.
“My teammates always tell me to make a play, hit a big shot,” the 6-0 guard said. “They found me so I just made a big shot to turn the game around.”
The play started with Damon Miraud (Elizabeth, N.J.) grabbing a loose ball.
“I saw Damon was saving it. My first instinct was move. Move and try to find an opening. He just happened to find me. I just raised up and knocked it down.”
One possession later, Jackson caught the Jamestown defense extending and drove for a layup.
“Sophomore leadership,” Monroe head coach Jerry Burns said of Jackson. “Makes big shots. That goes to the quality of the kid. He’s just a high-quality person. He plays with such a high energy.”
Monroe never trailed again.
Isaiah Davis (Elizabeth, N.J.) connected three times from long range over the next six-plus minutes to keep the lead. Davis made it a 74-70 game with a trey from the top of the arc.
“That was huge,” Burns stated. “He was three steps behind at the top of the key. The shot clock was winding down. They were playing great defense. It was a big difference.”
Dykweil Bryan (Brooklyn, N.Y.) all but sealed the victory with back-to-back buckets late in the shot clock.
“You know we want the ball in his hands at the end,” Burns said. “But we want it in his hands to produce. That’s the difference that he and I have talked about all year. We’re going to give you the ball, but you got to produce. We can’t have a turnover an air ball. We’ve go to have those huge baskets. Those baskets were huge.”
Bryan’s floater in the lane made it an 81-74 game with :53 remaining.
“The only thing on my mind was basically to make a play if it was for me or if it was just for teammates,” Bryan explained. “It was either a floater or a wrap around to Damon…The big man committed, so I knew if I could get it up and touch the rim, Damon could just put it down or get it back.”
Jackson converted four free throws in the final 20 seconds.
“If someone deserves the award he got today, there is no better person,” Burns said of Jackson. “He does so many good things for our basketball program.”
Monroe’s defense held Jamestown to one field goal over nine possessions to take a double-digit advantage mid-way through the first half.
Jamestown would not go away. Brandon Kemp sparked a Jayhawks rally. The 6-3 guard scored 10 as JCC grabbed a seven-point lead. After Kyle Taylor-Mcleggan’s 3-pointer gave the Jayhawks a one-point edge at 35-34, Kemp scored back-to-back buckets for what looked like a commanding 43-36 JCC lead with 1:46 to go in the first.
“There were a lot of times where our offense was somewhat stagnant,” Burns noted. “We didn’t get what we needed, but it was attributed to them locking us down. We seemed out of synch a little bit.”
Jackson and Monroe responded before the end of the half. Jackson drilled a trey on the break and followed with a steal to lead Bryan into the open court for two. Thomas converted a pair at the free throw line for a 43-43 tie at half.
“That was a big deciding factor,” Burns said. “If you go into the locker room down seven, it’s a whole different mindset. I didn’t think we had played that well, but we were tied.
“That two minute span was huge and that was led by him (Jackson).”
Bryan scored 16 and handed out a game-high seven assists. Davis added 14. Miraud finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.
Kemp led Jamestown 20. Rakim Lesane added 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Monroe’s Bryan, Davis and Miraud joined Jackson on the All-Tournament team. JCC’s Kemp and Lesane also earned honors.
MCC will play at Community College of Rhode Island in the District II championship game, next Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m. Winner advances to the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Danville, Illinois.