South Laurel has already beaten Lincoln twice, winning 51-40 on Dec. 29 at North Laurel in the Hoopin' It Up Holiday Classic Dec. 29 and 68-52 at home on Jan. 17.
But Jackson said the Cardinals looked especially impressive against McCreary as they rolled to their second-largest win of the season. Their only greater margin of victory was an 89-28 win over Monticello.
"They were on fire, and they were good defensively, too," Jackson said. "Their zone caused McCreary a lot of problems."
"They're playing real well, and it's on their floor."
But Lincoln made that floor its own once South Laurel was done. The Patriots took over the building, and they made short work of Mercer County in an 82-57 victory.
"We did some good things," Jackson said.
That included shooting 61 percent from the field and holding Mercer to 32 percent.
Three seniors averaging in double figures
Lincoln has three seniors averaging in double figures, led by guard Chris Hart and center Jonathan True at 16.5 points per game. Forward Nathan Norman, whose 31 points Tuesday were the most for an individual in the first round of the regional, averages 12.4.
True, who also averages 9.8 rebounds, is the region's tallest player at 6-10 and a handful for most opponents. But Jackson said South Laurel can also be a handful with a front line that features the team's only senior, Cam Smith, at small forward, the physical Walt Allen at power forward and Eric Fields in the middle.
"They're big and they're long, and they cause people problems with their size," Jackson said.
The Cardinals could also cause havoc for Lincoln's backcourt with talented freshman guards Jordan Hammonds and Ty Proffitt.
Jackson said South Laurel has gotten better as those freshmen have become more comfortable. The Cardinals have won 11 of their last 14 games, losing only to 9th Region favorite Covington Catholic, 11th Region favorite Lexington Catholic and Corbin.
"I think they're playing a little better than they were early in the year," Jackson said. "They're well-coached. They do the things they do very well."
Lincoln is also on an uptick after absorbing six losses in the first month of the season. The Patriots' only losses in February were to Lafayette and Rockcastle County, contenders in the 11th and 13th regions, respectively, and Lexington Catholic.
Their first season under Jackson has been a huge success They won their first 45th District title since 2000 last week, and their win over Mercer made this their winningest season in 10 years and put them in the regional semifinals for the first time since 1995.
"We're excited to get there," Jackson said.
A win Friday would put Lincoln in the regional finals for the first time since 1990.
The first semifinal pairs tournament favorite Wayne County against Pulaski County. It's a rematch of a game Wayne won 85-60 on Feb. 3 at home.