The Chargers had waited five years for their next turn at the sectional title, and Jalen Jackson knew he had to do something spectacular to ensure another senior class didn’t leave Carroll empty-handed.
That determination added fuel to the fire, making way for a 45-point performance for the Carroll junior — the highest-scoring game for any player in school history. The reward was a 63-53 victory over Snider in the East Noble championship, earning Carroll its first trophy since 2016.
“You never know — this might be the seniors’ last game. I didn’t want it to be their last game, so I wanted to go out there and lay it on the line for my teammates, and especially have fun,” Jackson said.
Carroll’s previous individual scoring record predates any of the program’s current players — a 41-point game by Sam Gensic against Peru back in February of 1999.
“He’s a good player,” Carroll Head Coach Marty Beasley said of Jackson. “He’s strong and explosive, gets through the hole, and our guys know he can score. It’s one thing if they’re stopping him and he’s got to pass up, but they weren’t stopping him. He was able to get there every time, so good for him and good for our team. I love the fact that our guys realized the mismatch and took advantage of it.”
It was the second time this season that Carroll got the better of the Panthers, who finished their season with a 13-11 record. Once again it was a back-and-forth affair, with lead changes clocking in at double digits this time around.
The first quarter saw four lead changes, the largest being a four-point edge for the Panthers. The Chargers went on to outscore Snider 8-4 to tie it up 10-10 by the end of the period.
Jackson scored the first five points of the second quarter, including an early and-one, to give Carroll its biggest lead of the game up to that point. Snider’s Karson Jenkins responded with four straight points of his own, sparking a 10-0 Snider run. The Chargers proceeded to outscore Snider 9-5 through the remainder of the half, briefly taking a one-point lead, before the Panthers’ Tylor Harding scored the final bucket of the quarter just before the buzzer to put Snider up 25-24 going into the locker room.
“The first half, four of the five starters were out with foul trouble, so we just had to finish out the quarter,” Jackson said. “We came in the second half with a different mindset, competed for 16 minutes and laid it all on the line.”
The third quarter saw five lead changes with neither team scoring more than four consecutive points through the first five minutes. Carroll was able to muster a 10-0 run late in the quarter — eight of those points coming from Jackson — to lead by nine. The junior put a cherry on top with a buzzer-beating three to put the Chargers up 44-35 going into the final eight minutes.
“We got in foul trouble in the first half. We didn’t execute, and we had guys in that didn’t know some sets that we run and they were confused. I think the spotlight gave them stage fright a little bit, but once we got our main guys back in, I felt like we just got the ball inside and scored inside a lot on them,” Beasley said. “We wanted to make them shoot tough jumpers — that was the whole key there — and I think once we got our guys in and started moving, we started to get that run.”
The Panthers were held scoreless for two-and-a-half minutes to start the fourth quarter, making way for an 8-0 Carroll run. The Chargers led by as many as 17, while the Panthers posted runs of five and seven points, respectively, to stay in it. The Chargers scored the final five points of the game to seal the win.
“This is a special group,” Beasley said. “They were determined, they wanted to be champions, they worked for it, they stuck together and played through some tough times. I’m happy for the kids — they set their minds to it and they deserve it.”
Jackson made 19 of 26 field goals from two on the night — also a new school record. Senior Sam Strycker also pitched in eight points on 4-of-4 shooting from within the arc. Jenkins led the Panthers with 19 points on the night.
“I’ve played with him since I was 4 years old,” Jackson said of the Snider junior. “That’s my friend, that’s my guy. We’ve been close all these years, and it’s a really good team, really tough out. Just to come in and beat them feels great, especially twice in a season.”
The No. 19 Chargers (18-6) will move on to the Logansport regional Saturday where they will face No. 13 Lafayette Jefferson (24-2) at noon. The winner of that game will face the winner of No. 1 Homestead (25-0) vs. No. 2 Carmel (22-2).
“You have Homestead, you have Carmel, you have Lafayette Jeff, so there’s all these good teams that are going to be in the regional, so we have to reset, refocus, come into practice next week with the same mentality — just to get better and go 110%,” Jackson said.