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Jermaine jackson Jr. took over the showdown.
The Dakota senior guard scored 26 points to lead the Cougars to a 72-66 victory over New Haven in a much-anticipated MAC crossover boys basketball game Friday night
Jackson, who scored only two points in the first quarter, had 10 in the second and 10 more in the third as the Cougars (3-0) built a 53-40 lead in a match-up of teams that both won regional championships last season.
“It starts and ends for us with Jermaine,” Dakota coach Paul Tocco said. “He’s our Mr. Basketball candidate.
“We were a little stale for a while, but he picked us up. He’s a true point guard.”
Jack Ballantyne scored 17 points and Thomas Kithier 14 for defending MAC Red Division champion Dakota. Ballantyne also had 14 rebounds and Kithier 10. Jackson made eight assists.
Romeo Weems scored 27 points and Eric Williams Jr. 26 for New Haven (1-1). Weems also had 16 rebounds and five assists.
“I’m proud of my guys,” New Haven coach Tedaro France said. “We came into their gym and took them to the wire.”
Weems made a basket and a free throw to pull New Haven to within 64-60 with 2:07 left, and the Rockets inched a point closer when Weems made one of two free throws six seconds later.
Ballantyne got loose on the baseline for a layup with 1:41 to play, but the transfer from De La Salle missed two free throws with 1:23 left.
Williams then converted a three-point play with 1:09 left to draw New Haven to within 66-64.
Jackson’s two free throws put Dakota ahead 68-64, and Weems countered with a pair of free throws with 61 seconds left.
But Ballantyne made a layin with 32 seconds left to give Dakota a four-point lead and a dunk by Kithier just before the buzzer capped the scoring.
Jackson’s final points of the third quarter came on a baseline-to-baseline layup that gave the Cougars a 51-40 lead with 1:13 left.
Earlier, his 3-pointer lifted Dakota from a 36-35 deficit, and he made another triple to put the home team ahead 42-36 with 3:39 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars maintained their lead in the fourth quarter. A three-point play by Michigan State commit Kithier gave Dakota a 57-46 lead with 6:03 left. Ballantyne’s dunk about a minute later put Dakota ahead 60-50.
Jackson and Ballantyne carried Dakota in the first half with 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Cougars led 33-28 at the break despite 12 points by Weems, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who has made official visits to Michigan and Ohio State.
Ballantyne scored six points in the first quarter as Dakota built a 12-11 lead. Weems and Sherrell had four apiece for New Haven in the first quarter.
Dakota scored 92 points and New Haven 90 in victories over Warren-Mott and Grosse Pointe South, respectively, on Tuesday.
New Haven, the defending MAC Gold Division champion that has moved to the Blue Division, plays Detroit Loyola at Calihan Hall on Sunday.
On Saturday, Dakota plays Detroit East English Village, and on Tuesday Dakota takes on U-D Jesuit, the Cougars’ 2016 state semifinal opponent, at Calihan Hall.