BY NORM BETZ –
The Acorn Tigers not only did something that hasn’t been done in 39 years, but they continue to set records. The Tigers made history in their first game of the 1A State Tournament when they defeated Wonderview 67-63 in overtime. Prior to the 2014-15 Tigers’ victory in the first-round, Acorn hadn’t ever won a game at the state tournament. History making continued as the Tigers defeated Western Grove in the Elite 8 game, 58-43, on Saturday night to advance to the semifinals of the 1A State Tournament.
“Proud of these young men,” said Tigers head coach Mike Jackson. “They keep gaining confidence with every game.”
The Tigers opened the game scoring the first bucket, led by as many as five points, and held onto a 13-11 lead at the end of the first. Senior Morgan Hair led Acorn in the first, hitting one from beyond the arc and later converting a three-point play the old-fashioned way, by grabbing his own rebound and putting it back up and in and getting fouled on the play. Junior Ethan Bird added a three-pointer of his own, while senior Sky Jackson and junior Ashton Pardun each added buckets.
Hair guided the Tigers for the second straight quarter owning eight of the 15 points scored. Hair nailed a pair of three-pointers and knocked down two-of-two from the charity stripe. Jackson threw down his own exclamation point via a dunk and was also perfect from the line hitting two-of-two in the second. Senior Justin Hogan started off the quarter with a lay-up and added one-of-two from the line. Acorn outscored Western Grove 15-11 in the second and took a 28-22 lead to the locker room at the half.
The Tigers outscored the Warriors 16-12 in the third quarter to take a 10 point lead, 44-34. It looked like Acorn was going to be up 13 points, but Western Grove hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 10. Jackson tipped in his own shot, converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way, and made one-of-two from the line to lead the Tigers in the third quarter. Hogan and Pardun each tossed in a pair of buckets and each made one-of-two from the charity stripe to account for Acorn’s third quarter points.
“Defensively, I thought we rebounded well,” said Jackson. “We moved the ball well in the second half and got the ball to the open shooter.”
The Tigers closed out the game outscoring Western Grove 14-9 in the final quarter, to win the contest, 58-43, and advance to the Final Four of the 3A State Tournament for the first time in school history. Acorn went to the line 19 times in the fourth, connecting on just eight. Jackson led the Tigers with seven points, hitting a pair of 14-foot jumpers and making just three-of-nine from the stripe. Hair connected on six-of-seven from the stripe, while Pardun grabbed a rebound and kissed it in off the glass. Bird rounded out the Tigers scoring hitting two-of-two from the line.
“It really wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done,” said Jackson. “We really struggled from the line today, but we did enough to advance.”
Sky Jackson matched Western Grove’s Andrew Smith with 19 points. Morgan Hair finished with 17 points, Ashton Pardun finished with nine points, Justin Hogan added eight points, and Ethan Bird rounded out the Acorn scoring with five points. Acorn shot 49% (18-of-38) from the line, while Western Grove shot 57% (4-of-7).
With the win Acorn advanced to the Final Four or better known as the 3A State Semifinals and played Emerson on Monday at 2:00 p.m. at Nashville.