SPRINGFIELD — In terms of players that are confident in their ability, MacArthur's Quincenia Jackson sits near the top.
The Generals' calming force at center had 20 points and 20 rebounds as MacArthur overpowered Sacred Heart-Griffin 60-40 in the Central State 8 Tournament championship game on Saturday at SHG.
"I felt like this game was just going to go how we wanted it to go," Jackson said. "Our walk-through before the bus ride and our talk in the locker room before the game were great. After the first couple of points, I knew we were going to get it.
"I think the game went good for me and not only for me, but for the team too. We played more of a team ball tonight instead of for the individual. It was great."
The Generals (10-1) avenged their only loss of the season that came at the hands of the Cyclones (16-1), 48-32, on Feb. 27.
"Mentally, everything was different (from the first game). About a minute after last night's game against Springfield High, we started talking about being refocused for tonight and not to have a repeat of the meltdown we had here a few weeks back," MacArthur coach Sean Flaherty said. "We had a good shoot-around and we had another talk in the locker room about this being it.
"Usually, you don’t know when your season is going to be over and we knew the season was over and this was it. We knew we had nothing left to lose and we could push it all night. Even when we were up big, we were still going to push because you never know."
The Generals led 18-12 after the first quarter and built the lead to 33-21 at halftime. MacArthur was able to limit Cyclones standout Sofie Lowis to seven points in the first half and 10 for the game.
"The last time we lost our focus and tonight we threw our defense out the window and we did what we do best which is heavy pressure zone defense," Flaherty said. "I don’t know if they were prepared for it or not because we usually play man-to-man against SHG. It seemed to bother them a little bit. They didn’t shoot very well, so that helped too."
Up 12 points, Flaherty's halftime message was don't let the team's foot off of the pedal.
"Coach said at halftime that the game was not over. We had to focus in the first three minutes of the third quarter. That was more important than anything," MacArthur senior guard Taya Davis said. "In the third quarter, I knew (the game was ours) because we were all hyped. We all knew it was time to slow it down."
The Generals led 45-31 at the end of the three quarters and went on to win by 20 points.
Along with Jackson's game-high 20 points, Ariana Riley had nine points. Haley Diveley and Lilly Null both added eight each. Davis scored five points and had 11 assists.
"Every time Taya missed, Q was there to clean it up. That is the way it has been all year," Flaherty said. "Q is going to get the offensive boards for us. That’s kind of her game. We have been trying to run a little bit more these past two or three games. We knew if we didn’t let SHG set up their half court defense, we were going to get some nice looks."
The Generals dedicated their season to their late coach Michael 'Dubb' Williams, who passed away in July and their goal for the season was a conference championship.
"I hate that he is not here with us. We always said ‘Do it for Dubb” and we did it," Jackson said. "I’m sad it is my last game. I’m really going to miss this team and I have loved being at MacArthur for all of my high school. It was great to be able to be on a team that felt more like a sisterhood."
In team group chats, the MacArthur players reminded each other of their motivations this season.
"It motivated us a lot. In our group chat, we said 'We’ve got to win this game for Dubb and not for ourselves,'" Davis said. "It was emotional tonight and it was hard. Especially since Coach Dubb wasn’t here. I’m just happy that we got the win and we played hard. We kept our heads tonight and we played more as a team. We didn’t force a lot of things. We came out more ‘Doing it for Dubb.’"
Flaherty, who was an assistant coach for Williams the past two seasons, officially became head coach just before the start of the season.
"It’s amazing and I can’t believe this happened. This is my team but these are Dubb’s girls," Flaherty said. "We meshed as the season went and it was a tough transition. I am so happy and thrilled for them."
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten