E.A. Sports Today

JCA gets needed win

Thunder enjoys big second quarter, success at free-throw line in first in-county victory

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Things appear to be looking up for the Jacksonville Christian basketball team just in time for the Calhoun County Tournament.

The Thunder enjoyed its highest-scoring quarter of the season Monday night, did the things down the stretch necessary to close out a game and scored its first victory of the season over a county opponent, upsetting Faith Christian 67-57.

“We’ve been the same place we were tonight several times,” JCA coach Tommy Miller said. “We are a very overall inexperienced basketball team and things would happen and we weren’t able to overcome them. Tonight, we were able to overcome anything. What I saw, I hope, was a little maturity.

“We really needed to win a game like this. Somewhere down the line, to get over the hump, you’ve got to win one like this. So, we hope we can build on this. I hope I saw some maturity tonight.”

The Thunder (4-10) took advantage of the what Miller called “playing with our feet and not our hands” — and Faith coach Bradley Dawson described as forgetting to play defense — to score 28 points in the second quarter. They had scored 20 points or more in a quarter only five times previously this season.

Five different players scored in the quarter and three – Walker Messer, Daylon Brackett and Reed Murphy – had at least six points.

Dawson was none too pleased by it all and let his team know on the bench and at halftime. The Lions (12-7) responded with an 11-0 run over the first 90 seconds of the second half to make it a one-point game. Jordan Griswald was particularly active, scoring six of points in the flurry and 14 of his game-high 22 in the second half.

But every time Faith got close, the Thunder would make the plays to hold it back. After the 11-0 run, Messer, Brackett and Murphy all scored consecutively to push the Thunder back out front.

Messer, a freshman, finished with 20 points; sophomore Murphy relocated his shot and behind four 3-pointers scored 16, and senior Brackett scored 17.
Kris Armprester added 11.

“I thought we were mentally a little weak today,” Dawson said. “We just let things bother us that shouldn’t bother us and it took us out of our game.

“We challenged them at halftime to come and just play better, not win, but play better. The biggest key was we made a run and then we quit guarding them the rest of the quarter; you just can’t do that. And in the fourth quarter I thought we panicked and we shot ourselves out from winning the game.”

A 3-pointer by Logan Williamson drew another Faith comeback within two with 1:25 left, 59-57, but it would be the Lions’ final points of the game. The Thunder hit six straight free throws and a layup over the final 1:16 to snap a six-game losing streak.

JCA was 27 of 38 from the free throw line. All five players who scored hit at least two. Brackett was 11 for 12 and Messer eight for 10.

“That was the best free throw shooting performance of the whole year,” Messer said. “We were just really focused and locked down tonight. We were just on.”

The win avenged a 20-point loss to the Lions earlier this season. The Thunder was 0-3 against county teams entering the game, the last county team to score a win over its Calhoun counterparts. By virtue of the blind draw format, JCA is the No. 9 “seed” in the upcoming Calhoun County Tournament.

“We just stuck it together and made a lot less turnovers,” Murphy said. “It just all came together for us. We needed to win a county game like this just to put us out there and let them know we’re coming.”

Jacksonville Christian 67, Faith Christian 57

FAITH CHRISTIAN (12-7) – Ryan Crosby 2 0-0 5, Jordan Griswald 10 2-8 22, Jameson Adams 0 0-0 0, Logan Williamson 3 0-0 9, Caleb McCord 2 0-0 5, Jack Sills 2 0-0 4, Grant Martin 0 0-0 0, Josiah McDaniel 3 1-2 7, Alex Taylor 2 0-0 5, Julien Key 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 3-10 57.

JACKSONVILLE CHRISTIAN (4-10) – Jimbo Tolbert 0 0-0 0, Elijah McCormack 0 0-0 0, Walker Messer 6 8-10 20, Daylon Brackett 3 11-12 17, Jayden Mitchell 0 3-4 3, Kris Armprester 4 3-9 11, Reed Murphy 5 2-4 16, Spencer Perry 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 27-38 67.

Faith 16 10 17 14 — 57
JCA 10 28 11 18 — 67

3-point goals: Faith 6 (Crosby, Williamson 3, McCord, Taylor); JCA 4 (Murphy 4). Total fouls: Faith 30, JCA 15. Fouled out: Williamson, McCord, Sills.

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