Friday’s weather may have been typically snowy and cold for December, but the Ursuline gym had some Sunshine State warmth with Paul Jackson in the lineup.
The 6-foot-5 senior, who lived in Miami during most of his high school years, had 17 points in Ursuline’s 65-51 win over Sharon.
“Paul lived here until the eighth grade, then moved to Florida,” coach Keith Gunther said after his Irish won after Tuesday’s season-opening buzzer-beater loss to Massillon Perry. “His mom’s from Youngstown, so he moved back his senior year, so it’s a blessing for us,” Gunther said of the player who didn’t start, but had his points in the second, third and fourth quarters.
“He played football, so he’s just getting adapted to what we do. Should he potentially be a starter? We think so. He’s 6-5, he’s athletic, tough and he can score. He can also defend some guards. At some point, we anticipate he should be in the starting lineup. It’s got to be on a timetable when he understands everything we’re doing.”
After Sharon was within three points at 19-16 entering the second quarter, Jackson scored his team’s next five points to give Ursuline the impetus toward a 41-27 halftime lead.
Sophomore Greg Parella had a second-best 15 points, while Desmond McElroy, a senior, added 13 for the Irish, who reached the district final in 2012-13 before suffering a double OT loss to LaBrae.
Sharon, which was playing its season opener, got 13 points from Jamal Waller, while football standout Carnell Hawkins created havoc, defensively, for Ursuline before fouling out with 3:49 to go.
Gunther also had good words for starter Mark Hughes.
“People don’t know, but Mark’s probably one of the best players in northeastern Ohio. He can get people off the dribble [beating a defender by going to the basket with the ball] and really get to the basket.”
Gunther mentioned Hughes’ basketball IQ.
“It’s pretty high,” the coach said, “and his ability to get people off the dribble is unbelievable. It’s pretty tough stopping him from getting to the basket.”
Second-year Sharon coach Jason Rankin gave his thoughts: “I think they kept more balls alive on second shots. They kind of kept us at bay from the beginning and kept us at arm’s length because of those second shots.”
Throughout the season, the Tigers will have to compensate for their lack of size.
“I told our guys that everyone has to rebound,” Rankin said. “You’ve got to get in there and it starts with boxing out. If you don’t, you’re in trouble.”
In the beginning, Rankin said his strategy was to utilize its team speed.
“We definitely wanted to use our speed down the floor, but we also knew they had some pretty good guards. We want to try to develop and get better as a team. If we get beat by a better team, then so be it. But we wanted to try to create some turnovers and create possessions for them that weren’t good possessions. We felt we had some guys who could shoot, but, because of their size, Ursuline was able to extend their space and slow us down.”