For nearly two full basketball seasons, Aberdeen 7-foot center Robbie Jackson has been called a work in progress.
He has shown flashes of brilliance but never put together an all-around game that has indicated that he will become a major force in Harford County.
Until last night.
In a showdown for first place in the top division of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference, Jackson dominated, scoring 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds and eight blocks, as the No. 19 Eagles routed host and No. 13 Bel Air, 67-44, before a sold-out crowd.
"He does something more with each game," Eagles coach Richard Hart said of Jackson, who is playing his second season of organized basketball. "I think he's going to be an incredible player before he's done, something this area has not seen in a while."
The victory, Aberdeen's second over Bel Air in less than a month, puts the Eagles (13-6 overall, 9-1 league) one win away from clinching the Chesapeake Division and a berth in next week's inaugural UCBAC championship game against the Susquehanna Division winner.
Aberdeen closes its regular season with games against its archrival, Edgewood, tomorrow and Monday.
Kevin Goines scored 17 points to lead Bel Air.
The Bobcats (17-2, 8-2) led 16-14 after a mistake-filled first half before the Eagles blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring Bel Air 29-7 to take a 43-23 lead.
Jackson started the third quarter with nine straight points and teammate Phillip Brown did the rest, adding 10 of his 14 points in the quarter, including two long three-pointers. Brown was scoreless at halftime.
"That stretch was all Phil Brown and Robbie Jackson," said Bel Air coach Chris Harney, whose normally on-target squad shot just 16-for-53 in the game. "They took their team on their shoulders in the second half."
Said Jackson: "I knew they were quick, but I just tried to grab the ball and let them run by me."
Aberdeen, which also got 11 points and 16 rebounds from Leandre Richardson, was not threatened in the fourth quarter.
The victory was particularly satisfying for the Eagles considering they were coming off an overtime loss to Thomas Johnson the night before. Aberdeen also found out last week that Shawn Lewis, one of its top players, would miss the rest of the season after disciplinary action at school.
All told, Aberdeen has just eight available players and two original starters.
"When we go through that stuff, it just makes the bond with the guys who are here that much stronger," Brown said. "We knew we'd win tonight, we just didn't expect to win by that many."