E.A. Sports Today

Saks defense under fire

Wildcats score plenty of points, but can’t stop Geraldine late

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The stakes weren’t quite as high, but the game was just an intense and this time the outcome was decidedly different.

Saks and Geraldine reunited Saturday for a rematch of their 2014 Northeast Regional semifinal on this same Jacksonville State floor. This time, Geraldine left it happy, winning the Holiday Hoops Challenge game 75-74 on Zack Nelson’s short turnaround jumper with 11.4 seconds to play.

The Bulldogs scored as many points in the first three quarters Saturday and it did the entire game last year (49), leading Saks coach Jonathan Miller to decry his team’s indifference to defense.

“We didn’t play a whole lot of defense; I don’t know how intense you can be if you don’t play defense,” Miller said. “We’ve got a mindset right now where we’re just worried about the offensive end. To get where we want to go that’s got to change. We’ve got get more focused and play better defense for sure.”

The second-ranked Wildcats (5-1) placed three scorers in double figures, led by Makel Taylor’s 22, but they gave up 29 to Nelson, 21 to Keylon Harris and 15 to Brady Gilbert. Nelson and Harris combined for 22 of the Bulldogs’ 26 fourth-quarter points.

“We just couldn’t guard them,” Miller said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it, we just didn’t guard them very well. If you contain (Nelson), you let him get his, and play good defense on their guards then you’ll be all right, but we didn’t keep a soul out of the lane tonight.”

Saks held a nine-point lead after Quen Williams’ three-point play early in the fourth quarter, but then Nelson and Harris chipped away. Nelson scored 10 in a 12-2 run that put Geraldine ahead with 3:51 to play. Taylor followed with five quick points to put Saks back on top and it stayed there until Gilbert followed his own missed layup with 50.2 seconds to play.

Taylor put Saks back on top with a basket with 32.4 seconds left, but missed the and-one to keep the margin one. That’s when the Bulldogs (9-1), ranked fifth in 3A, got it down to Nelson to make it 75-74 with 11.4 seconds left.

Taylor scored 17 of his points in the second half. Darion Coleman had 17 points for Saks and Williams 16.

“I just wanted to get a ‘W’ for us,” Taylor said. “I didn’t want to take an ‘L’.”

The Wildcats had the final possession to pull it off with the ball in their high scorer’s hands, but Taylor lost it in the lane. The ensuing scramble led to a held ball in Geraldine’s possession with three-tenths of a second left.

“I never really got control of it before I took off,” Taylor said. “There was like three seconds left. I messed up on my timing.”

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