ROBINSON — The taste of defeat made it extra sweet.
Last season, Memorial Christian Academy saw its hopes of winning the Texas Christian Athletic Fellowship Division II state championship erased in the semifinal round as Fort Worth Covenant Classic advanced with a 54-40 victory.
The Warriors rebounded to win the third-place game, but they did not forget the disappointment, and one year later, Memorial avenged the loss.
Paced by a nearly perfect offensive showing in the fourth quarter, the Warriors captured a berth in the state- title game Tuesday evening, defeating Arlington St. Paul Prep 60-50, and following the performance Memorial forward Clarence Jackson admitted the feeling was difficult to explain.
“I have no words to describe exactly how good this feels,” the junior said. “Last year, we came up short, but we have redeemed ourselves.
“Making it to state was the goal from day one, because we were all
upset after last year. We all felt like we should have gone further, so we had to handle our business and stay focused.”
Down the stretch, Jackson could not miss.
After entering the fourth quarter with a 41-37 lead, the Warriors did not allow the Lions to get any closer thanks in part to Jackson, who made all five of his field-goal attempts in the period en route to a 20-point, nine-rebound, five-block outing.
He was not the only Memorial player contributing, though.
The Warriors connected on nine of 10 shots in the fourth quarter, closing the contest with six consecutive points after St. Paul used a 6-2 outburst to pull within four points, 54-50, with 1 minute, 7 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It was just a matter of our guys finally getting comfortable,” Memorial head coach Kenneth Evans said. “I like the fact that we had to go through some adversity, because we don’t want anything to be given to us.
“We had to earn it tonight.”
Warriors junior Caden Clark scored the game’s opening points off a steal, but the Lions answered with seven straight points, and Memorial (16-3) did not recapture a lead until Jackson’s driving layup made the score 16-15 early in the second quarter.
St. Paul (14-6) took a 28-25 lead into halftime before inflating the cushion to four points, 34-30, early in the third quarter, but it proved to be the Lions’ final advantage of the evening.
Sparked by seven points in the period from freshman Jeremiah Smith, the Warriors, who have won 14 consecutive games, immediately embarked on a 9-0 run, and never allowed the Lions to come back.
Smith finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists to complement Jackson’s showing, while Clark scored 16 points on five-of-seven shooting to go with four rebounds and two blocks, and teammate Erick Armstrong added nine points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks.
“Our biggest strength is our depth,” Evans said. “Throughout the season, I can turn to any one of our guys on any given night and expect them to have a big game.
“That’s our biggest asset, because some of the teams we face will have a one-two punch, but we have several guys who can jump in the game and make an impact.”
Now, the Warriors will look to complete their quest for a state championship when they travel to Fort Worth’s Lake Country Christian Academy to face Bartonville Harvest Christian Academy.
Tipoff for the title game is at 3:30 p.m., and winning will not be easy, but Jackson is confident.
“We just have to follow the same game plan as always,” he said. “We have to take our time, stay disciplined, know our roles on the court and trust each other.”
MEMORIAL CHRISTIAN 60, ARLINGTON ST. PAUL PREP 50
At Robinson HS
St. Paul (50)
L.Mason 23, C.Mason 18, Johnson 4, Miles 3, Gonzales 2.
Memorial Christian (60)
Jackson 20, Clark 16, Smith 11, Armstrong 9, Escoffery 4.
St. Paul 15 13 9 13—50
Memorial 12 13 16 19—60
3-Point Goals—St. Paul 5 (L.Mason 4, Miles), Memorial 0. Free Throws—St. Paul 1-5, Memorial 8-13. Fouled Out—Gonzales). Total Fouls—St. Paul 9, Memorial 8. Technical—None.
Records—St. Paul 14-6, Memorial 16-4.
SATURDAY’S TCAF D2 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
- Memorial Christian vs. Bartonville Harvest Christian, 3:30 p.m. at Fort Worth’s Lake County Christian Academy