E.A. Sports Today

Saks starts fast

Best first quarter of the season carries Wildcats to 91-68 win over Jacksonville

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Jonathan Miller was probably glad his Saks basketball team got off to the hot start it did Friday night. Even as strong as they are, the Wildcats might not have survived otherwise the way the game unfolded.

Miller’s fourth-ranked Wildcats enjoyed their best start to a game this season. Playing a quality opponent on the road, they were as good as ever on both ends of the floor and roared to a 26-point first-quarter lead.

But then something that wouldn’t have been so funny in a tighter game happened The Wildcats stopped doing all those good things that got them the big lead and maybe even got a little greedy. Their once-big lead had been reduced all the way to a dozen in the third quarter, but they eventually woke up and wound up having plenty to beat Jacksonville 91-68.

“It doesn’t matter really what sport you play, a lot of times when you jump out to big leads in games kids tend to get complacent, especially on defense,” Miller said. “Sometimes hitting a lot of 3s early works against your favor, too, because everybody starts to think they can make them and you start taking bad ones.

“I thought we played good defense in the first quarter and then we didn’t the rest of the game. Once we got out to that big lead we didn’t play a lick of defense the rest of the night, but sometimes that happens.”

The Wildcats (14-2) were absolutely torrid out of the gate. They hit shots from everywhere and kept Jacksonville from doing anything. Quen Williams hit four of their six 3-pointers in the quarter and by the time the horn sounded, the Wildcats were up 33-7. At halftime, they were 10-of-19 from beyond the arc while the Golden Eagles were 0-for-10.

Three of their first four buckets of the game were 3s by Williams — and they weren’t just a toe outside the line, either. They were long and they were smooth.

The Wildcats hit eight of their first 10 shots overall and 10 of their first 13. All Jacksonville could muster was three scattered buckets by Cam Horton. At halftime, Saks had two more points with the 3-ball alone than the Golden Eagles had points in the game.

“It was awesome actually,” Makel Taylor said of the team’s start. “I didn’t know we were going to come out that hot; I don’t even know what happened to us. We just came out, everything – defense and offense – just clicking.”

Williams was 6 of 10 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished with 25 points in the game. Taylor had 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Monty Young had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Darion Coleman added 16 points.

Williams looked as sharp as he did couple weeks ago when he scored 36 on Cleburne County. He hit nine 3-pointers in that game and scored 20 points in the first quarter. He had 15 in the first quarter Friday, 21 in the first half.

“I was just mad kind of because of all the stuff that was going on, the talk during the game,” Williams said.

His hot start muted the anticipated scoring duel with Horton. The Golden Eagles’ gunner did score all his team’s points in the first quarter and led all scorers with 29 points, but he didn’t hit his first 3-pointer until the final minute of the game.

The Golden Eagles couldn’t be blamed for not looking quite like themselves; they had a lot more on their minds and hearts than a basketball game. At halftime of the girls’ game the boys team was informed of the sudden passing of forward Savon Parker’s mother; the girls weren’t told until immediately after their game.

“Savon is a great kid,” emotionally spent Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless said. “He’s a great leader. He’s a great leader in football. The entire student body at Jacksonville High School loves him and his family and it hurt everybody to learn of his loss.

“I told the kids I don’t know how y’all responded as well as you did. I’ve never played under that circumstance, I’ve never coached under this circumstance and I thought we responded about as well as we could. I thought our kids fought really hard and I’m proud of them for that.”

That fight, coupled with the Wildcats’ lethargy with a big lead, helped the Golden Eagles whittle a 26-point deficit early in the third quarter to 12 with less than a minute to go in it. Saks then scored the next 11 points — with Williams hitting his final 3 — and it was never closer than 17 the rest of the way.

“You just can’t spot a good team whatever it was in the first quarter like we did,” Chambless said. “We were playing too fast on offense and that’s what we did not want to do. We settled down and got back in it, but they’ve got so many weapons on offense, it’s tough to just totally stop them.”

Saks 91, Jacksonville 68

SAKS (14-2) – Quen Williams 7-18 4-6 25, Makel Taylor 8-10 2-3 19, Monty Young 7-11 2-3 16, Darion Coleman 6-13 2-3 16, Devin Harris 2-2 3-3 7, Demetrius Powell 2-3 0-0 4, Quin Smith 1-4 0-1 2, Jaylen Britt 0-0 1-2 1, Quay McCord 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-61 14-21 91.

JACKSONVILLE – Cam Horton 9-18 10-15 29, Sid Thurmond 7-18 8-9 23, Taye Ackles 4-9 0-0 9, Ben Jaskowski 1-1 1-1 3, Tristan Yates 1-1 0-0 2, Rivan Hill 1-5 0-0 2, Aaron Bragg 0-1 0-0 0, K.J. Satcher 0-1 0-0 0, Casey Trull 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 19-25 68.

Saks 33 18 18 22 — 91
Jacksonville 7 21 28 12 — 68

3-point goals: Saks 11-25 (Williams 7-14, Taylor 1-2, Coleman 2-7, Powell 1-2); Jacksonville 3-9 (Horton 1-9, Thurmond 1-3, Ackles 1-6, Hill 0-1). Rebounds: Saks 44 (Young 12), Jacksonville 26 (Thurmond 8). Total fouls: Saks 16, Jacksonville 18. Technical fouls: Horton.

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