CANTON Take a rivalry’s worth of emotions, pack them into a four-minute span and put two great teams’ seasons on the line.
Welcome to Jackson-Hoover girls basketball, round three.
The rubber match between the two rivals was the nightcap for what amounted to a Federal League postseason tournament, a.k.a. the Canton Division I district semifinals. After GlenOak edged past Perry 51-47 in the first game of the night, Hoover and Jackson squared off for the third time this season after each team won on the other’s home court during the regular season.
With their respective seasons on the line, the two teams battled in a game that was close throughout, which is exactly the way Hoover head coach Abbey Allerding expected the contest to go.
“I think all of us coaches in the Federal League who are in this district talked about how hard it is to play a team three times,” Allerding said. “It’s that time of year … it’s a crazy atmosphere, so you’re going to have games like that.”
For Hoover, a strong start led to a four-point halftime lead, but struggles at the free-throw line allowed valuable points to slip away. On the night, the Vikings made just 63.7 percent (14 of 22) from the charity stripe, with Jackson whistled for 19 fouls to Hoover’s 12. The Vikings also had to weather a no-holds-barred effort from Jackson junior guard Taylor Mikesell, who nearly willed her team to a win with 34 points.
In the end, the balance of Hoover - three players in double figures, led by senior guard Maddie Blyer with 17 - won out in a game where strong cheering sections from both schools created a great atmosphere at the Canton Memorial Field House. The Field House has hosted the Canton Division II boys sectional tournament for many years, but the Division I girls district for the area has been at Walsh University in recent seasons.
In the district’s new home, four Federal League rivals staged a pair of exciting games and Allerding enjoyed the historic setting for a game that neither Jackson nor Hoover will soon forget.
“I thought Walsh was a great venue, but the Field House is a great venue with a lot of history and there have been a lot of great games there,” she said. The win may have settled the season series in Hoover’s favor, but in one of the area’s biggest rivalries, it also sets the stage for what looks to be a strong run specifically for Jackson and Hoover in girls basketball.
For several years, the Vikings dominated the rivalry and were perennial state title contenders. Under fourth-year head coach Anthony Butch, Jackson reached the regional finals two years ago and has won at least 17 games the past three seasons. With the Polar Bears going strong and Hoover having posted another 20-win campaign this season, it certainly appears that both sides are poised to maintain a high level of play for the immediate future and that should provide for more exciting contests - regardless of the venue.
“He (Butch) does a really nice job over there and I feel like Jackson-Hoover is a huge rivalry in all sports, so why should girls basketball be any different?” Allerding said.
What serves a team well in the pressure cooker of postseason action is the experience of its veteran leaders and for Hoover, being a consistent district title contender means that there is almost always a good supply of players on the roster who have been in big spots before and can set an example for their younger teammates to follow.
As the district semifinal contest headed into overtime and both sides realized that four minutes of action would decide their fate, the level of intensity in the fieldhouse rose markedly. For two teams who place a premium on defense, the extra period was the perfect setting to decide who was better and by blanking Jackson in overtime and grinding out six points of their own, the Vikings earned bragging rights for a few months - until they meet Jackson again next season and the rivalry writes its next chapter.
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