The Erie BayHawks came through on their win guarantee and won their first home game of the season, defeating the Bakersfield Jam 91-78. They did it with uncharacteristically good outside shooting, unusual player rotations from Coach John Treloar, and uninspired play from the Jam.
But let's start with those unusual player rotations. Starters Alade Aminu and Donell Taylor, who second on the team in minutes per game, played less than 10 minutes apiece. Jackie Manuel, who averages a team-high 43 minutes per game saw less than 29 minutes of action. Unusual, atypical, weird. Whatever you want to say about the lineups and player usage tonight, the bottom line is that it worked, at least for this night.
John Bryant led the team in minutes played with 42, and for good reason. This was by far Bryant's best home outing of the season. He shot 7-13 from the floor, routinely hitting the 15-18 foot jumper off the pick-and-pop, primarily run with Cedric Jackson. He also pulled down a team-high 16 rebounds, all on the defensive end.
Someone must have said something to Ivan Harris about his affection for the long two-point jumpshot. On this night, he limited his college 3-point attempts and hit consistently (5-10) from NBA 3-point range for 15 of his team-high 19 points on the night.
But the player of the game, in my opinion, was backup point guard Cedric Jackson. Cliff Clinkscales got the start on the basis of his hot recent play, but the two point guards split time evenly tonight, and Jackson played well enough that he was the man that closed the game out for the BayHawks. Jackson had 17 points on 6-9 shooting, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers. Clinkscales had a quiet night, going 0-2 from the field with just 4 assists.
Jackson was the closer tonight that Erie has lacked this season. There was a moment in the 4th quarter when the BayHawks appeared to be headed toward yet another late-game collapse. What had been a 19-point lead at one point was trimmed to 75-67 early in the 4th. That's when Jackson turned out the lights. He made a driving/floating layup to push the lead back to 10. Following another Bakersfield basket, Jackson found Jackie Manuel for an assist, again pushing the lead to 10. Then, following a Jarvis Gunter block, Jackson found Manuel again, this time on an alley-oop. Finally, Jackson got a steal and finished on the other end with a layup that made it 83-69 Erie. That sequence was when this game was put on ice, and most of the credit goes to Cedric Jackson as the catalyst. Credit him for stepping up in a big way in the wake of Clinkscales' recent success.
Bakersfield falls to 2-12 with the loss. Erie improves to 4-9 (1-5 at home) with the win. Unfortunately, this is the only time they'll play the Jam this season.
Up next for the BayHawks is a New Year's Day date in Maine where they'll meet a Red Claws team that is 3-0 against them, beating the BayHawks by an average of 17 points per game. This season has not started as well as many had hoped, but they ended it with a win at home. If they can start 2010 with a win on the road in Maine, maybe there's hope for this season to turn around yet.