Millionaires reach their tournament title game

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Keith Jason (3) of Williamsport dribbles as Khalid Lisby (5) of Prep Charter, moves behind him Tuesday at Williamsport High School.

Williamsport teammates and coaches named Keith Jason, “Scrap” a while back. The complimentary nickname shares a dual meaning. Jason is tough like scrap iron and he is a fighter who never backs down.

But Jason is more than just a fierce competitor and hustler. He also is a darn good basketball player.

Jason played his best high school game Tuesday at the Williamsport Christ­mas Tournament, scoring a career-high 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds and sparking a second-half rally as the Millionaires defeated Prep Charter, 89-75. Jason ignited a big second-half push after Prep Charter took a two-point halftime lead and his all-around play helped Williamsport (4-3) win its third straight game while earning a spot in tonight’s championship against Glasgow, Delaware.

“I always try to give my best effort whenever I do anything,” Jason said. “Whether it’s drills or walk-throughs or close games or blowouts, I’m always going to give my best.”

“There’s nothing selfish about his play, that’s for sure,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “He’s not going for his. He’s trying to get possession of the ball and trying to make a play all the time.”

He made plenty last night.

Four Millionaires scored in double figures, at least five had eight or more points and Williamsport scored 58 second-half points. It all started with Jason making big plays on both ends of the court. Jason is a relentless defender and his value goes beyond the steals he makes. Jason hounds ball-handlers, cuts off passing lanes and upsets the opponent’s rhythm.

Jason did that to open the third quarter and showed off his offensive touch as well. The senior guard scored six quick points and, including four in less than two seconds when he scored off a drive, forced a turnover and then scored inside again. Jason scored 13 of his 20 points during Williamsport’s dominant second half and played tough inside despite giving up several inches.

The defense is almost always a given with Jason but he is starting to flourish offensively as well. A player who became a defensive specialist late last season for a district champion keeps making strides with his all-around play and made 6 of 10 shots, including a 3-pointer while going 7 for 9 at the foul line. A defender tried to slow down Jason on a fourth-quarter drive by grabbing hold of his jersey and pulling it back.

Jason kept moving forward and finished the play, scoring to make it 59-45. The play symbolized who Jason is because rarely does anything hold him back.

“I just try to keep growing on it,” Jason said. “All we needed (in the second half) was defense. Without the defense we didn’t have any energy. As soon as we got the defense going we got hyped and got the crowd hyped and got everyone going.”

” I told him he usually gets everything going just by his defensive pressure and his energy and enthusiasm. When he starts flying around the passing lanes and he starts harassing the other team’s ball-handler he causes a lot of turnovers,” Taylor said. “He disrupts the timing of their offense and allows us to get out in transition. By his hustle and effort, that really changed the game for us in the second half.”

Wiliamsport built on that early third-quarter momentum and built a 51-41 lead entering the fourth. Prep Charter never pulled within single digits again as Williamsport continued developing and displaying new weapons. A team that lost four starters from last year’s district championship team is growing each game and started clicking in the second half when it cut down on the unforced turnovers that plagued it during a sloppy first half.

The Millionaires made 15 of 23 second-half shots and went 30 for 39 at the foul line. They also moved the ball well and had assists on 18 of their 27 field goals. Al-Tamar Jason played another strong all-around game, scoring 19 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dealing three assists. Darryl Wilson stretched the Prep Charter defense by hitting four 3-pointers and finishing with 17 points. Eric Smith continues providing a big lift on both ends inside and nearly recorded a double-double, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.

When Smith was not doing damage, center D’Angelo Strachon was and the senior scored six points while not missing on any of his four shots from the field and the line. Combined Smith and Strachon were 8 for 13 from the field.

“Eric gave us another excellent performance to follow up what he did Saturday and the one thing I kept saying to those guys was I need 15 points from that 5 spot,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t have to be one individual, but D’Angelo gave us positive minutes. He’s starting to show we can count on him and he’s going to come through for us. He’s scoring inside and hitting some free throws which is huge.”

Marcus Simmons repeatedly carved up the Prep Charter defense throughout the second half and had five of his six assists during that time. Simmons threw a nifty pass to Smith that put Williamsport up 15 with less than three minutes remaining and Prep charter never cut it closer than 11 again. Williamsport scored 38 fourth-quarter points with 21 coming at the foul line as Prep Charter continued fouling, even when it was down 14 with 15 seconds remaining. It was the second straight game in which Williamsport put the game away at the foul line after trailing at halftime as it continues building confidence.

“We don’t think about being down at halftime,” Jason said. “We think about it as a new half and say let’s go do what we did before. Anything bad let’s get rid of it, anything good let’s build on it.”

PREP CHARTER (75)

Sharrod Lewis 7 8-12 22, Khalid Lisby 8 2-3 23, Rashaad Fairnot 3 0-0 6, Khalif Lisby 1 0-0 2, Mark Moore 2 0-0 5, Rashaun Burbase 3 0-1 6, Raquib Lewis 4 4-7 12. 27 16-23 75.

WILLIAMSPORT (89)

Darryl Wilson 4 5-6 17, Al-Tamar Jason 6 7-10 19, Marcus Simmons 1 1-2 3, Keith Jason 6 7-9 20, Ethan Williams 2 4-4 8, Eric Smith 6 0-0 12, Ethen Stryker 0 0-0 0, D’Angelo Strachon 2 2-2 6, Nassir Jones 0 4-4 4, Tyler McCann 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 30-39.

Prep Charter 11 22 8 34–75

Williamsport 15 16 20 38–89

3-pointers: Prep Charter 5 (Lisby 4, Moore); Williamsport 5 (Wilson 4, K. Jason).

Records: Williamsport 4-3.

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