CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Take away a team's point guard and you take away its lifeline.
Times No. 5 Bloom Township found that out Friday night at M'Cann Gym's Wes Mason Court as Zerell Jackson sat most of the game with foul trouble. He fouled out with 2:29 left in the Blazing Trojans' 79-74 Southland Athletic Conference loss to Rich East.
Bloom clung to a 70-66 lead when Jackson went out, but was outscored 13-4 the rest of the way as the Rockets (14-3, 5-2) handed the Blazing Trojans (12-7, 5-1) their first conference loss.
Jackson finished with six points and played just 12:10. He played just 1:46 in the first half.
"That hurt, definitely," Bloom coach Ron Ashlaw said. "Zerell Jackson is our starting point guard and without him, we never got into the flow of the game."
Rich East avenged a 79-64 loss to Bloom on Dec. 13. It was a game in which the Blazing Trojans led by more than 20 points in the second half.
"We talked to our kids about that and told them Rich East is a different team, a much improved from December," Ashlaw said. "I don't think we took them lightly. They are just a good team and (Quinton) Moore did a number on us."
Moore took control of the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of his game-high 32 points.
"Coach (George Leonard) wanted the ball in my hands the fourth quarter," Moore said. "I just wanted to do what I could to help my team. We knew this was an important game."
The Blazing Trojans had no answer or a way to stop Moore, said Jared Johnson, who guarded him.
"He had some good spin moves on me and I tried to keep up but couldn't," Johnson said. "I started cramping up and my calves were hurting. We couldn't stop him down the stretch."
Johnson, who led Bloom with 24 points, sat for a few minutes in the fourth quarter because of the cramps.
"They are a good team and we knew they would come out and give us a game," Johnson said. "Zeke (Jackson) going down really hurt us because he runs the show and they forced us into a lot of turnovers. We just didn't have our floor leader out there."
Bloom looked like it might run away as it opened up a 49-39 lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter on a pair of Jackson free throws. The Rockets went on a 10-2 run as the teams battled back-and-forth. Bloom led 59-56 after three.
"We will look at the film at 11 o'clock tomorrow (Saturday) morning and go over everything," Ashlaw said. "You have to give Moore and Rich East credit. They played a great game."