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Jackson-Reed Edges Clinton Grace

By Marcus Helton, 02/05/24, 7:00PM EST


The nationally-ranked Tigers held off a challenge at The HoopBuzz Invite.

Jackson-Reed 2025 forward Jaden Fort. [Amina Helton for DMVelite]

UPPER MARLBORO, MD - Trailing late against an upset-minded Clinton Grace Christian (Md.) squad on Saturday, the Jackson-Reed (Md.) Tigers weren’t flustered.

“We’ve had a lot of experience being in close games,” Tigers 2025 forward Jaden Fort said, “especially towards the end. And we rep it a lot in our drills, so I think towards the end of the game we were prepared.”

The Tigers leaned on that big-game experience to make key plays down the stretch, and clamped down defensively on the final possession to pull out a 59-56 win at The HoopBuzz Invite at Wise High School.

Fort had 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks to lead the Tigers, while 2025 forward JJ Massaquoi had 13 points and 7 boards, including several key offensive boards in the fourth quarter.

“The key was just to play hard and not let them outwork us,” Massaquoi said. “We just had to play hard and we had to get that second gear to just push us to dominate them, because they came out punching and we looked like we were just taking them. We needed to come back and fight - that's all Coach Tee [Johnson] was emphasizing.”

The Tigers (27-2) came in ranked nationally, sitting at No. 22 in the SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25. The Eagles (23-4) have had a strong year as well, and came in looking to pick up a key DMV victory despite missing their top player - Umass-Lowell-bound 2024 guard Kris Johnson - due to injury.

Jackson-Reed led 18-15 after one quarter and 35-30 at halftime as Clinton Grace stayed close with a strong effort from 2024 forward Daouda Traore. The Eagles made their push in the third quarter behind 2025 forward Bryce Adams, who scored 8 of his points in the frame. 2027 guard Lonnie Lyons beat the buzzer with a floater to give the Eagles a 46-43 lead after three quarters

Clinton Grace maintained a tight lead until Fort scored off an offensive rebound and drew the foul, putting the Tigers up 52-51 with 3:37 remaining.

Trailing 59-56 with 24.1 seconds remaining, Clinton Grace inbounded the ball on the far baseline. They looked for an opening but never found one, and couldn’t get a shot off before time expired.

“These guys are used to [big games], honestly,” said Massasquoi, who transferred in from DeMatha last summer. “Wilson/Jackson-Reed, you’ve seen Rob Dockery, [Darren Buchanan] and them when they were here. They were just telling us in the huddle, like, ‘Everybody always wants Jackson-Reed, and they’re always going to come for us.’ So just staying mentally strong and focused, that’s what gets us through.”

Jackson-Reed's depth and talent played a role as well. In particular, the 6-foot-8, 205-pound Fort was a matchup problem for the Eagles in the second half.

“I was just trying to be the player that I know I am,” he said. “I was trying to get to my spots and knock down shots or get to a lay up. I was trying to work inside out, so I don’t think I did anything special; I just think overall I just played the way I should be playing.”

That’s something his coach said he’d love to see on a more consistent basis.

“I think he has a lot more in store that he doesn’t show,” Johnson said of Fort. “It’s just him mentally, he’s got to figure it out, but he can do so much. If you ever watch me, that’s probably why you see me frustrated with him just because I know how much he can impact a game. He’s not close to impacting the game the way he should be, but he’s still special.”

In the end, Johnson said his team’s ability to handle big tests will prove beneficial in the coming weeks as they gear up for postseason play.

“I think it helps a lot, just because at playoff time and championship time, these games are what help us prepare for that,” he said. “Every game won’t be how they are in the league; there’s going to be guys that can fight, there’s going to be good teams on the other side and good players, so we’ve got to continue to just prepare. That’s why I pick games like this so that we can stay ready.”

Traore finished with 18 points to lead the Eagles, while Adams had 13 and 2024 guard Ky Panda-Massey finished with 11. 2024 guard Isaiah Buckley had 8 points and 7 assists.

Jackson-Reed vs. Clinton Grace Christian [Amina Helton for DMVelite].