By Jim Flick
Amid the cheers of Friday’s boisterous fans, the Jackson-Milton High School boys basketball team won its first conference title since 1968 by defeating Western Reserve, 59-45.
The victory clinched an Inter Tri-County Tier Two title and earned the President’s Memorial Trophy for the Blue Jays (12-7, 10-4).
Since 1967, the trophy has been awarded to the winner of the second Western Reserve-Jackson-Milton basketball match-up of each season.
“It’s great,” Jackson-Milton coach Gary Nagy said. “For the community, for the kids, it’s a big deal. It’s huge for us.”
Jackson-Milton fans filled the Western Reserve gym and Nagy said the team appreciated their support.
“It’s been 44 years since we’ve been able to put anything on a banner. It’s an unbelievable thing for the kids. They worked hard and they really put forth the effort this year.
“I have not seen the kids that intense ever,” Nagy said.
The Blue Jays’ effort was intense from the start. Jackson-Milton led 8-0 before Western Reserve (10-8, 7-7) scored, and held a 14-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Blue Jays led 27-17 at halftime.
The Blue Devils pulled to within six points, 29-23, early in the third quarter, but Jackson-Milton quickly poured it on and led by 15 points, 40-25, after three quarters.
Zack Nagy, a senior and the coach’s nephew, led Jackson-Milton in the first quarter, sinking two 3-pointers as he scored 11 points. By the end of the game, he had connected for 20 points
“We were thinking about this game all day in school,” Zack Nagy said. “This was the highlight of the year.
“We know these guys,” he added, referring to the Western Reserve players. “We’ve been playing them since fifth grade.
Ryan Nagy, a senior and the coach’s son, said: “This is the biggest game of our high school career.
He also scored 20 points.
“It’s hard not to be pumped with the conference title on the line,” Ryan Nagy said.
Cody Vaughn, a Jackson-Milton senior who scored seven points, agreed.
“They’re our rivals, and most teams were not taking us seriously,” Vaughn said. “But now we’ve showed them what we can do.”
John Gherardi, a senior, was the game’s leading rebounder, snagging six missed shots for the Blue Jays. He also scored five points. Taylor Huzica, a senior, netted six points for Jackson-Milton.
Jackson-Milton out-rebounded Western Reserve, 28-25. Western Reserve’s leading scorer was senior Tom Benyo, who tallied 12 points.
Senior Jeff Clegg added 10 points for the Blue Devils.