Marvion Jackson was simply a man among boys.
The 6-foot-5 West Burlington High School junior spent much of the summer and fall in the weight room and in the gym, getting stronger and perfecting his low-post moves.
On Tuesday night, Jackson was unstoppable. The Falcons' big man put down a game-high 23 points, including a dunk off a lob from Cayson Shipp to start the game as the Falcons withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally for a 57-50 SEI Superconference South Division victory at West Burlington.
In a classic trap game — the Falcons were coming off an emotional victory over Notre Dame on Jan. 10 and are set to host Class 1A's fifth-ranked WACO either Thursday or Friday — it was Jackson who delivered the goods, and a victory.
"It was a really good game. We were coming off that hard-fought game against Notre Dame. Everyone is on a high, basically," Jackson said. "We just had to come out here and play hard. This win is big for us. Hopefully this gives us some momentum going into the game either Thursday or Friday, whatever day it is because of bad weather. Just get the game going."
"The true definition of a trap game. Coming off a big win over Notre Dame. Hopefully not looking ahead to WACO either Thursday or Friday. But I think it's just human nature," West Burlington coach Ryan O'Hern said. "Marvion carried us. We have to do a better job of playing through him, playing inside out. I thought our guards did a great job of finding him inside in the second half. He has excellent footwork, great touch around the rim and he's only going to continue to improve and get better."
West Burlington (8-3 overall, 7-2 South Division) started the game with a bang when Jackson raced up the court, took a lob pass from Shipp and slammed it through the net, bringing the West Burlington crowd and bench to its feet.
"We threw the lob for him to start the game. He went up and got it," O'Hern said. "That really gets the crowd excited, being able to throw one down. That's his first home dunk, I believe. It was nice. It was exciting for him. It was a good pass by Cayson, too."
Van Buren (3-8, 1-7) was not fazed. The young Warriors — Van Buren starts two freshmen and has three more on the bench — answered with 3-pointers by Jonah Heckenberg and Jackson Manning and took a 15-12 lead into the second quarter.
"The one thing I was concerned about was their three-quarter press. I thought we may have had two or three turnovers against that and one of them was by a kid who hasn't played much varsity basketball. So I thought we did pretty well against it," Van Buren coach Fred Parsons said. "I thought if we keep running our motion offense instead of standing still and receiving the ball, I thought we were better off doing that instead of waiting for the pass to come and then running our play."
West Burlington got a pair of baskets from Darian Johnson and a 3-pointer by Austin Applegate early in the second quarter, then let Jackson go to work inside. He scored thee baskets in the quarter as the Falcons soared to a 29-19 halftime lead.
"I have good guards who open me up a lot," Jackson said. "When they're on, they're on. When I'm on, I'm on. That's really it. If I get double-teamed, I kick it out to them. If they don't have it, they kick it down to me. They're really the ones who make the plays for me. They're the reason I'm so open all the time."
Van Buren, which trailed by as many as 16 points in the third quarter and 13 points with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game, refused to go away. Lane Davis and Heckenberg sank consecutive treys. A jumper by Heckenberg pulled the Warriors within 50-45 with 2:25 remaining.
"I don't think we should have been in that situation, but it is what it is. I thought they came back pretty good," Parsons said. "I thought we didn't play with very much energy right after the half. I guess halftime is when I start coaching. That's what screws them up. They did all right. We're not very strong, physically or mature-wise. We start two freshmen and they play most of the game."
Fittingly, Jackson sealed the deal, scoring on a layup to stave off the Warriors. The Falcons sank 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to escape Van Buren's upset bid.
"I worked on my game every day this summer. Every day. Whether it was in the weight room or in the gym getting some shots up. Playing in AAU tournament. Just playing every day in the summer," Jackson said. "I give credit to my weight coach, Jay Eilers, the football coach. He really puts in the work for us. He give us the intensity we have in the weight room. Off and on the court. Big credit to him and Ryan O'Hern, our coach. (Assistant coach Mike) Radloff. Give credit to everybody."
"All the credit in the world to Fred (Parsons) and Van Buren. We knew it was going to be a completely different game that the first time we played them. They're much improved. Van Buren has been playing really well. The 3-pointer is the great equalizer. Van Buren hit five big threes in the second half. It was a game with a couple minutes left," O'Hern said. "I was proud of the way our guys made free throws down the stretch. That's what we're going to have to do in some of these big games in conference and in the tournament."
VAN BUREN (50)
Jackson Manning 4-11 1-1 13, Lane Davis 4-8 1-1 10, Tony Davison 4-7 0-0 8, Wyatt Mertens 2-8 0-0 5, Jonah Heckenberg 6-9 0-0 14, Owen Loeffler 0-0 0-2 0, Cohyn Jury 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Richardson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-43 2-4 50.
WEST BURLINGTON (57)
Cayson Shipp 3-7 2-4 8, Colton Sherwood 4-7 4-6 13, Darian Johnson 3-9 2-2 8, Dylan McElderry 0-0 0-0 0, Marvion Jackson 11-14 1-2 23, Max Slater 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Eilers 0-2 0-0 0, Ty Hill 0-2 2-2 2, Austin Applegate 1-4 0-0 3. Totals: 22-45 11-16 57.
Score by quarters
Fouls: Van Buren 18, West Burlington 9. Fouled out: None. Technicals: None. 3-point goals: Van Buren 8-17 (Manning 4-8, Heckenberg 2-3, Davis 1-3, Mertens 1-3), West Burlington 2-14 (Sherwood 1-3, Applegate 1-3, Jackson 0-1, Eilers 0-1, Hill 0-1, Johnson 0-2, Shipp 0-3).
Records: Van Buren 3-8 overall (1-7 SEI Superconference South Division), West Burlington 8-3 (7-2).