CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- If Antonio Jackson had his way all the time like he did Tuesday night, there might not be school at Ooltewah today. Or practice this afternoon.
Jackson was able to penetrate the Bradley Central defense at will, finishing with 16 points and 15 assists. More importantly, he helped his team make enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Bears, 63-58, in a District 5-AAA battle at Jim Smiddy Arena.
Jervon Johnson had 18 points for Ooltewah (5-0, 1-0). Andre Moton had 10 and Mikhail Creech led the team with 12 rebounds, but all of Jackson's teammates were beneficiaries of the junior point guard's unselfishness.
"With my dribbling ability, I just don't think the man on me can guard me," Jackson said. "This win gives us a lot of confidence; we knew what we could do, we just have to do it. This should help us get some kinks out and help us work on the chemistry that we'll need to build to be a good team."
With 33.2 seconds remaining and his team clinging to a four-point lead, Jackson drove the lane, spun and made an acrobatic layup. He bumped his chest and was given a technical by the officials. Bradley's Miles Christian made a pair of free throws, but the Bears (6-2, 1-1) couldn't convert on their next possession and Jackson and Mikhail Creech hit three of four free throws in the final 26.5 seconds.
The Owls' offensive pressure and defensive intensity helped them jump out to a 13-point lead early. They led 19-10 after the first quarter, but the Bears slowed the pace and tied the game with a 12-0 run by attacking the basket for layups.
"I felt like after that first quarter, we lost our edge," Ooltewah coach Jesse Nayadley said. "When we play aggressive, we're good, but if we play slow, we're just average. Bradley did what they wanted and we didn't."
Third-quarter layups by Darien Johnson and Hunter Chastain tied the game at 29, but Ooltewah responded with an 11-2 run, punctuated by a Jervon Johnson dunk with 4:25 to go. The Owls got the lead to 10 in the third and fourth quarters, but a layup by Bradley's Miles Morgan trimmed that deficit to 49-45.
Morgan had another layup to make it 58-54, but with a chance to cut it to two after a stop on defense, he let a ball go through his hands and out of bounds.
The Bears missed about 17 layups. They shot 12-for-17 from the foul line, but Chastain had a pair of crucial misses in the fourth quarter. He had 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to pace the Bears, while Morgan finished with 14.
"Ooltewah is a team that can shoot you out of a game but shoot you right back in," Bradley coach Kent Smith said. "We got the ball where we wanted it, but we didn't finish down low and missed a lot of shots around the rim. Then if you miss shots around the rim, they turn that into transition opportunities."
Said Nayadley: "I thought we showed some mental toughness tonight. Bradley made their runs, but we never gave the game away. I think a sign that we've grown up from last year is that we were able to hold our composure and get a win here. It's hard to beat anybody on the road, but it's especially hard here."