Pottstown basketball tops Upper Moreland at buzzer, returns to state tournament after 16 years

POTTSTOWN >> The biggest shot in the recent history of Pottstown basketball had everyone from players to coaches and spectators exalting in joy.

Everyone, that is, but the shot maker himself.

“I’m excited,” said Abdul Jackson, whose buzzer-beating shot sent the Trojans past Upper Moreland, 70-68, and into the PIAA 5A state tournament for the first time since 2008.

“But at the same time, it’s what I needed to do. I’ve been here before.”

Last season, the unflappable Jackson forced overtime against Spring-Ford on a similar play in the PAC playoffs and won a game against Holy Ghost Prep in the dying seconds.

The only difference this time was the stakes.

“It’s what we hear Coach Ivory saying. Never again,” said Jackson. “There’s no reason Pottstown should be going 10, 15 years between playoff appearances. It was our job to get that turned.”

Jackson took the ball outside the opposing three-point line, dribbling the length of the court before unfurling a short banker to end a back-and-forth contest.

“Sadeeq (Jackson, Abdul’s twin brother) wanted the ball,” Abdul laughed. “But I’d decided if they played me a certain way, I wasn’t looking anywhere but the rim.”

Looking to Sadeeq wouldn’t have been a bad option either. The sharp-shooting senior led all scorers with 21, including a four-point play that brought the Trojans back from the brink when trailing by five with just under three minutes to play.

“They were screaming ‘shooter’ all game, I knew they were coming down to me,” said Sadeeq. “I’m just happy to make that shot for my team.”

Pottstown’s Sadeeq Jackson (23) drives along the baseline against Upper Moreland in a District 1-5A playback game on Feb. 24. (Austin Hertzog – MNG)

The shot and free throw were especially huge after Pottstown lost fellow senior Jurrell Young to fouls on the prior possession. Young, who led Pottstown for most of the game with 18 points, might’ve been the most excited player in the gym.

“After I fouled out, I’m staying in their ears, Abdul and Sadeeq — telling them to get to the line,” said Young. “When Sadeeq hit that shot, I thought ‘He’s about to save my life.’”

Life goes on indeed for the No. 5 seed Trojans, who improve to 19-7 and head to No. 3 Radnor on Wednesday for a seeding game. Saturday was the trio of seniors’ final game in Strom Gymnasium.

“What a way to end it,” said Sadeeq Jackson. “We’re excited, and now we get to keep this going for at least a few more games.”

For Pottstown, the first trip to the state tournament since 2008 and stands as validation for a senior-laden squad who’s spent the past three seasons redefining the storied program.

Ken Ivory got the job just weeks before the start of the 2021-2022 season, and the former Pottsgrove player and coach has overseen a program transformation led by Saturday’s stars, plus fellow seniors Nahzier Booker and DiMark Lyons.

“In the beginning? They drove me crazy,” laughed Ivory. “But these guys are workers who live and die basketball. They’re here every day, no matter what, and that’s the biggest thing I hope these younger guys pick up from them.”

The Class of 2024 gives Ivory and his staff equal credit for solidifying their love of the game.

“He’s helped me on and off the court,” said Sadeeq Jackson. “It’s not just basketball, but school and personal life as well.”

“He’s given me more confidence,” added Young, “not only here but to play at the next level.”

That confidence is spreading to the underclassmen as well. Sophomores Syncere Whitehurst and Yashir Wood each recorded a single basket Saturday, but both came during Pottstown’s final-minute rally to set the stage for Abdul Jackson’s heroics.

Pottstown’s Syncere Whitehurst (0) shoots a jumper against Upper Moreland on Feb. 24. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Upper Moreland built a ten-point halftime lead on the strength of the outside shooting of Colson Campbell (20 points), but Pottstown rallied to knot the game at 46 at the end of three, setting the stage for a decisive fourth quarter that didn’t disappoint.

But Pottstown took their first lead since 2-0 when Whitehurst hit a short jumper with 1:13 to play. The teams exchanged free throws, and Upper Moreland’s Nate Best hit a runner with 5.6 seconds left, resulting in a Pottstown timeout to set up Abdul Jackson’s heroics.

Upper Moreland’s 2023-2024 campaign comes to a close at a mark of 14-11. Coach Dan Heiland admitted the sudden ending was unexpected but didn’t detract from what his team accomplished.

“That was a great game, and a tough finish,” said Heiland. “Our group of seniors work hard, they push the guys in the classes below them.

“Alex Best is playing some of the best ball these past couple weeks. Sean Murphy’s come a long way, Jimmy Perce, Javy Velez — the brotherhood they’ve built makes me super proud. It’s tough for them, but they’re a great group of kids.”

The margins couldn’t have been much closer — much like the bond in the Pottstown locker room. “Stay in rhythm, be a leader, keep your teammates involved,” said Sadeeq Jackson, repeating the lessons of the past three years that showed their greatest on-court pay off Saturday. “I have my coaches to thank for that.”

“These guys,” summarized Ivory, “make coaching easy.”


Upper Moreland   —   18   18   10   22   —   68

Pottstown   —   11   15   20   24   —   70

Upper Moreland: Campbell 5 2 4-4 20, A. Best 3 1 0-0 9, Perce 1 1 3-3 8, Martin 0 2-2 2, Carson 3 1 1-1 10, Murphy 5 2-2 12, Perce 0 0-0 0, Hughes 1 0-0 2, N. Best 1 5-6 7. Totals 18 5 17-18 68.

Pottstown: A. Jackson 6 8-10 20, Lyons 0 0-0 0, Young 5 8-9 18, S. Jackson 3 4 3-5 21, Booker 3 1-5 7, Whitehurst 1 0-2 2, Wood 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 4 20-29 70.

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