During last year's run to the Class 1A state title, New Town was led by the savvy play of a guard. Stuart Clarke, now a junior, was a major reason why the Titans won the 1A crown.
In the Titans' 1A quarterfinal game against host Digital Harbor last night, there was savvy play by another junior guard. Fortunately for the Rams, he was on their team.
George Jackson's poised play led the Rams to a 56-50 victory over the defending champion Titans.
"George is just a wonderful point guard to have," Rams senior forward Jermaine Edwards said. "He's just a floor general, and I love him."
After going scoreless in the first quarter, and with Digital Harbor down 16-8, Jackson got hot. On back-to-back possessions, he drove the lane and was fouled. He made all four free throws. With a minute left in the quarter, he sliced his way through the paint for a left-handed scoop layup, and on the next possession, he did the same thing, only he scored with his right hand, giving the No. 9 Rams (14-5) a 29-28 lead.
"He played like an all-star," said George's brother, Justin Jackson (12 points, six rebounds). "I just loved his leadership."
He was just as hard to stop in the fourth quarter. With 2:44 left and the Rams clinging to a 45-44 lead, he drove to the left side and made a tough, off-balance jump shot while getting fouled. He made the free throw to give the Rams a four-point lead.
He drove and passed to Gary Brannon for a layup on the next possession. When the Titans (16-8) got the ball back, he stripped Clarke and found Edwards (eight points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) for a layup. On the next play, he stripped Clarke again.
To put an exclamation point on his performance, with 24.1 seconds left, he drove the length of the court and scored a layup while getting fouled. Jackson finished with 19 points (9-for-9 on free throws), six assists, four steals, three rebounds and two blocks.
More importantly, Digital Harbor advanced to the semifinals, to be played tomorrow night, with its opponent to be determined.
"It's going to be a short celebration," Rams coach Johnnie Grimes said. "We have to be ready for a tough opponent next round."
Clarke finished with 17 points but scored just four in the second half.
No. 6 Douglass 92, Banks 56 -- Senior guard Omar Strong scored a career-high 50 points to lead the Ducks' rout in the 2A North quarterfinal. Strong made seven three-pointers and converted all 17 of his free throws. He scored 22 points in the second quarter to help give Douglass (19-5) a 37-25 halftime lead.
No. 7 City 56, No. 11 Northwestern 48 -- Adam Johnson's 21 points and 10 rebounds helped the Knights beat the Wildcats in a 2A North quarterfinal.
No. 14 Long Reach 88, Bel Air 52 -- Obi Ukuoma recorded his first triple double in the Lightning's 3A East quarterfinal win over the Bobcats. Ukuoma had 21 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Parkville 64, Thomas Johnson 48 -- Josh Corbett scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Knights (16-6) to a 4A North quarterfinal victory. Tavon Curry contributed 11 points in the win.
Sun reporters contributed to this article.