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Riverside-Brookfield stays undefeated behind slick guard Daniko Jackson

Daniko Jackson is a classic illusionist on the floor whose sleight of hand prowess offers its own thrills. He made DePaul Prep’s offense vanish.

The junior Riverside-Brookfield left-handed guard stopped the Rams’ offense in their tracks, stripping and swiping the ball with sureness and speed. He orchestrated his own offense to near perfection.

Jackson scored 15 points and recorded eight rebounds, five steals and four assists as the No. 12 Bulldogs remained perfect by smashing the Rams 61-39 in a Jack Tosh Classic semifinal Tuesday night at York. Riverside-Brookfield qualified for its first championship appearance since 2009.

“We closed out really well and we just played a very good game, especially in transition,” Jackson said. “I felt like when they applied pressure, I could go past them and create for my teammats

Riverside-Brookfield’s electrifying offense has been the key to its unbeaten start (13-0). The defense was suffocating against DePaul Prep, effectively ending the game by the second quarter. Riverside-Brookfield allowed just one basket through the first 11 minutes of the the game in running out to an 18-2 lead.

“We played really well on both ends of the floor, and Daniko really got us clicking,” Riverside-Brookfield coach Tom McCloskey said. “All five starters really played well. It was one of those days where everything was clicking.

“Daniko had an excellent first quarter that really set the tone.”

Jackson and senior wing forward Sam Johnson dissected the Rams’ defense. Jackson recorded consecutive steals and scored five points and Johnson drilled a three-pointer during an opening quarter closing 8-0 run. Johnson drilled three three-pointers in scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half.

“It was a great team victory,” Johnson said. “We just came out firing on all cylinders, and everyone of the starters brought their A game.

“We’re at our best when we run and [Jackson’s] steals really helped us get going,” he said.

Johnson added eight rebounds and three assists. Center Mark Smith shot 4-of-6 from the field in adding eight points, the bulk of them he finished in transition off sharp passes from Jackson.

Five of the seven Bulldogs who played in the first half scored as Riverside-Brookfield held a commanding 34-13 lead at the break. Things never got better for the Rams in the second half. DePaul Prep (10-3) managed only one basket in the third quarter, a putback by David Holiday.

Jackson punctuated his dominating performance by stroking a three-pointer from the top of the key and converting a tough three-point play in traffic that pushed the lead to 51-16 after the third quarter.

The starters for both teams left near the end of the third quarter. Ten different players scored for the Bulldogs.

Reserves Stephaun Bell scored eight points and Josh Fuder contributed seven points to lead the Rams, who shot just 26 percent (15-of-57) for the game.