The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by John Ross, Class of 2013.
Dramatic championship fourth quarters are usually decided by the teams with more solidified identities, and Jordan boys’ basketball knows exactly who they are.
The Panthers used their high-pressure defense and aggressive guard play to pull away late and beat Sage Hill 68-57 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A championship on Saturday at Edison High School.
That patented style is a direct reflection of second-year head coach Chris Francis, and it earns the Panthers their first CIF championship since 1996. It’s the fourth in program history.
“It was what we expected and it was about us sticking to J-Town basketball controlling the tempo, sharing the ball and running our scout team (in practice),” Jordan coach Chris Francis said. “This is special for our school and our community.”
The Jordan side of the Edison gym was packed full of Panthers family, friends, alumni and Moore League supporters. Talking about the season’s journey and that support had Francis visibly emotional during the postgame press conference.
“I’ve been through a lot in my personal life,” Francis said. “I lost a lot of family members, and for these kids to believe in me it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
Jordan guards Dennis Redmond Jr. (23 points), Franklyn Chambers (14 points) and Kane Young (17 points) were key to the victory, and all gave Francis credit postgame.
“He’s more than a coach, he’s more like an uncle,” Chambers said of Francis. “He may get crazy sometimes but at the end of the day it’s all love and he just wants to see me succeed.”
“It’s easy to believe in him because he believes in us,” Kane added. “We’ve been in our arguments but at the end of the day he gave me a chance and I took that opportunity.”
Kane was key to slowing down Sage Hill star Carter Bryant. The top college recruit finished with 22 points, 16 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks. However, Bryant didn’t score in the first quarter while Jordan took a lead, and then he didn’t get to the free throw line in the second half.
“This whole week we prepped for me playing defense against (Bryant) and not letting him touch the ball,” Kane said. “It was about him not touching the ball and that was my main goal. I just did what I had to do.”
Chambers also stepped up in the clutch when Sage Hill cut the Jordan lead to 56-53 with 4:45 left to play in the fourth quarter. The senior guard proceeded to score 10 of his 14 points in the final minutes while the Panthers outscored the Lightning 12-10 in the disjointed final quarter. Chambers also did it with four fouls on him.
“(Sage Hill) started to key in on (Kane Young and Dennis Redmond Jr.) so that’s what the team needed me to do and the job got done,” Chambers said. “(While playing with four fouls) my teammates did a good job of helping me keep my head up and I scored when I had the opportunity to. It just so happened to be 10 big points to get the job done. So I appreciate my teammates. Without them I don’t think I would’ve even been playing.”
Francis also gave his team defense credit for doing the work all season to be prepared for the clutch moments. Jordan forced 23 turnovers and scored 23 points off of them.
“I always say that fatigue makes mice out of men and these young men have put in the work,” Francis said. “We ran and ran and ran to prepare us for this moment. We feel like we’re the superior conditioned team when we step on the floor. Conditioning and endurance and paying attention to the game plan was what it was all about.”
Francis also gave credit to the Moore League for giving his team experience in close, hard-fought games.
“Our league is the toughest public school league in the state,” Francis said. “I’ll put it up against anybody’s league.”
Chambers got Jordan started on the right foot by stealing the ball at mid-court and finishing the layup for the first points of the game.
The Panthers also hit some huge 3-pointers in the first quarter while going 3-for-7 from behind the arc. Jordan took a 13-5 lead after a 3-pointer from Redmond Jr., pushed their lead minutes later when Jaymari Redmond found Young for an open triple, and capped the quarter with another Young 3-pointer to take a 22-15 lead to the second quarter.
Bryant got loose to start the second while scoring 12 of his 22 points in the quarter. He sparked an 8-1 run that gave Sage Hill its first lead of the game 25-22. The Lightning only led for 1:11 before J. Redmond found Jerome Wilson for an open 3-pointer that put the Panthers back up 30-29.
J. Redmond finished with a game-high seven assists, and Wilson had a team-high nine rebounds.
Jordan led 38-31 at halftime, but Sage Hill guard Andrew Cobb came alive to score 10 straight points for the Lightning. However, the Panthers maintained their lead by getting to the free throw line despite not scoring any fast break points after halftime.
Jordan finished 13-for-21 from the line (8-for-11 in second half) while Sage Hill was 9-for-15 (2-for-5 in second half).
Bryant got the Sage Hill crowd back into it by starting the fourth quarter with a steal and dunk to make it 56-51. Both teams struggled to find consistent offense down the stretch until Chambers took over. He made a pair of acrobatic layups that got the Panthers fans on their feet for the final minutes and resulting celebration after the 68-57 win.
“It’s just fun playing in front of a crowd like that and it tests your mental for sure,” Chambers said. “I feel like when you come out on top in front of a crowd like that you deserve to pat yourself on the back.
Francis went further in explaining how much the victory means to his program.
“It was part of what we signed up for,” he said of taking over at Jordan. “The pandemic was rough on these kids and on the North Side. We even had some kids who ended up losing their lives who grew up with Dennis. It was tough on the community. To be able to bring this community together with such a positive moment, it’s special. It was amazing that the alumni came back out. There was even a guy out there who was Class of ’74. That’s a beautiful thing for people to still have that pride for the community and the school.”
Jordan’s season isn’t finished as they advance to the CIF State tournament. Those brackets will be released on Sunday.