The Steel City Yellow Jackets were victorious in both of their games this past weekend, but neither one of the contests were easy wins.
The American Basketball Association (ABA) defending National Champions traveled to Ohio on Saturday and overcame a 20-point deficit to defeat the Bruins, 109-107. The deciding basket in that game was Timothy Jackson’s three-pointer with seven seconds left in the game.
The Bruins nearly upset the Yellow Jackets early in the season at home; however, the Yellow Jackets came out with a one-point win in that game. Game statistics and details for that contest have not been provided.
Meanwhile, Ace Pippens’ club returned to Pittsburgh for a 5 p.m. start against the Tri-State Blazers.
The game promised to be competitive from the first jump as Justin Fagan was the first to score in the game with a three-pointer. The Yellow Jackets’ Timothy Jackson answered with his own three-pointer seconds later. Fagan answered with another three-pointer and Tylor Jessie added offense. The Blazers had sprinted to a 12-4 lead.
Cordell Nicola had quite a game against the Yellow Jackets. He scored early to stretch the visitors’ lead to 14-7. He had a very productive day and finished with 20 points.
James Jackson hit a 3D and brought the Yellow Jackets back to a two-point deficit at 14-12. Donovan Vinson, Jessie, and Fagan would have the Blazers up by five with six minutes to go in the first quarter. Jordan Warner would also add to the lead, but James Jackson would storm ahead for the home team.
Fouls would serve to be a problem in this game, and James Jackson’s successful free throws would put the Yellow Jackets up 29-27 lead. Amaru Caldwell, Claude Scott, Jr. (who would come on strong in the second half) and Antonio Reddic, Sr. had the Yellow Jackets up 34-30 at the end of the first quarter.
Vinson would hit a jumper and was also forced to the foul line a few times in the early going of the quarter. He brought the Blazers back to within two points at 39-37. This is as close as the Blazers would get the rest of the day. Amaru Caldwell would score twice and Gilmore Cummings made his presence known with a three-pointer to extend the home team’s lead to 46-37.
Tim Jackson converted a 3D opportunity to jettison the lead to 65-50. Reddic punctuated the Yellow Jackets’ first-half scoring with a dunk. The Yellow Jackets were up 67-52 at the half.
This season has been one of adversity for the Yellow Jackets. At one time this season, the team looked equally strong under the net as it did beyond the three-point stripe. However, in recent weeks, MVP candidate Kenny Holmes returned to Canada to play in Newfoundland. Recent acquisition Artis Cleveland came and went, as did Ryan Montoya. Montoya and forward/center Brandon Burnett have reportedly signed tryout offers in another league.
Now, the team relies on captains Tone Reddic, Gilmore Cummings, and Claude Scott, Jr., twins Timothy and James Jackson, as well as the unsung Dominick McClung and recently returning Justin Hamilton at forward. Brandon Johnson, Amaru Caldwell, and VaShawn Howard will get more playing time in the back court.
The third quarter began with the Blazers once again striking first. Fagan hit a three and a two pointer in the opening seconds to make it a 67-57 game. The Blazers played a physical contest and brought enough players to keep someone in the game and fresh at all times.
Brandon Johnson and James Jackson answered for Pittsburgh. Tim Jackson hit a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 14 points once again. Johnson quickly added two three-pointers and Claude Scott, as promised, started to come on. A slam dunk with 7:35 to go in the quarter gave the home team an 86-69 lead.
Tempers started to flare as the game was hotly-contested all afternoon. Brandon Johnson nailed an impressive three-pointer and immediately got into a scrape with Vinson, was called for not only a personal foul, but a technical infraction. The benches cleared and the officials had to sort things out. By rule, the officials noted any player who rushed the court from the bench was to be ejected. That is, unless both teams agree no one would be tossed. That’s what happened and Johnson was sent to the free-throw line, shooting three. He hit two of the courtesy shots and the score was up to 92-71.
Vinson, Warner, and Fagan came on for the Blazers. Both teams traded scores and the Blazers came within 10 points once again, 95-85. Tylor Jessie connected on a 3D opportunity and the visitors were within 95-88.
VaShawn Howard pulled a leg muscle at this time, but he pressed through the muscle tweak and he was soon back to full speed.
Nicola and Reddic traded baskets and the Yellow Jackets were on top 102-92 at the end of the third quarter.
When the fourth quarter opened, the Yellow Jackets scored the initial points for the first time in the game. Reddic scored to make it 104-92.
Gilmore Cummings had an opportunity to score on a 3D opening seconds later. At the right time, Cummings nailed a silky shot from behind the three-point line for a four-point score. The home fans exploded.
Vinson and the Blazers would not stop trying. Even when the Yellow Jackets would pull away, Vinson, Nicola, and others would push hard. Vinson scored to make the lead 118-100 but Claude Scott immediately scored on two 3D opportunities in a row. It was 124-100.
Scott, Reddic, and James Jackson came on, but they couldn’t pull much further away because Nicola, Vinson, and Logan Short scored.
Cummings was getting into midseason form at the end of the game and hit two three-pointers in the final moments. Recent acquisition Marcus Millimen scored twice in the final seconds and the final score was 152-118.
Donovan Vinson led all scorers with 29 points, Justin Fagan had 26, Tylor Jessie 21, and Cordell Nicola 20.
The Steel City Yellow Jackets were led by Brandon Johnson’s 23 points, James Jackson’s 21, and Claude Scott’s 20. Amaru Caldwell, Timothy Jackson, Gilmore Cummings (on the strength of five three-point shots), and Tone Reddic all had 17 apiece.
Justin Hamilton posted 10 points, Marcus Millimen had 4, Dominick McClung 3, and VaShawn Howard 2.
The Yellow Jackets improve to 13-2 and head down the final stretch of three games in the regular season. They have qualified for the playoffs, but it will be the end of the season before the team finds out where and when they play in the postseason.
The team came into the weekend as the #5 ranked team in the American Basketball Association. The team will watch the scoreboard to see how the Top 4 teams fare.
You can find more information at the Steel City Yellow Jackets website.