Jackson is back in familiar territory – the boys basketball state championship game.
For the third time in the past four seasons, the Tigers will play for a title after using a dominant fourth quarter to beat St. Petersburg Gibbs 58-45 in the Class 4A state semifinals on Thursday morning in Lakeland.
Jackson (29-2) has won 23 consecutive games entering Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. showdown with Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian (23-2).
Michael Swift had 13 points and Ronald Durham added 11 in a well-balanced attack for the Tigers. Stephon Payne followed with eight.
Jackson closed in furious fashion.
Down 41-39 with four minutes, 29 seconds to play, the Tigers flipped a switch and rode the momentum to the finish. Payne converted a turnover into a basket and Swift knocked down a 3, the first two baskets of an eventual 17-0 run over the next 3:19 that extinguished any hope of a Gladiators upset.
Jackson will try and bring home the area’s first state basketball championship since Bolles won the Class 4A title in 2016.
For Tigers coach James Collins, he’s taken Jackson to this stage two other times recently. But the Tigers haven’t had enough to bring home the title. The last championship for Jackson? Back in 1993 when Collins, a star senior who went on to win Mr. Basketball, led the Tigers to their fifth title.
Those five titles are tied for most by an area team with now-defunct Arlington Country Day.