E.A. Sports Today

ACAA title games set

UPDATED: Ashland’s First Assembly gets another shot at Union Chapel

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Most people who follow Alabama Christian Schools basketball probably think First Assembly of Ashland has been waiting 12 months to have another crack at Huntsville’s Union Chapel. They’d only be half right.

The Lions just wanted to get back to the ACAA championship game. The fact that the Ambassadors are there, too, is a bonus.

First Assembly earned its return to the Division I title game – against the Union Chapel team that beat it last year – with a 63-36 rout of previously undefeated Victory Christian (Miss.) Friday at the Oxford Civic Center. The title rematch is 1:45 p.m. Saturday.

“To be honest with you, at the beginning of the year we didn’t shape up; we didn’t even win our area,” Lions coach Seth Jones said. “We had a good record, we had a good season, but we didn’t win our area, so we had to play in the sub-state to even get here and the team we just played beat us by 24 at their place.

“We were just trying to get better to go as far as we can and take a shot at it and see what we could do. As far as wanting to get back at them (Union Chapel), we just wanted to get here. We just wanted to be playing our best basketball at this time of the year and give it a shot. And we are, against some really, really good teams.”

The Lions (15-5) won a close game in the Elite Eight and their way with the Eagles (20-1). The game was tied with less than three minutes to go in the first quarter, but then they scored the next eight points and never trailed.

Victory drew within three with two minutes left in the half, but then Leland Steed and Zack Lightsey scored the last eight points of the quarter for First Assembly and the outcome was never in doubt after that.

Steed led the Lions with 28 points, including a third-quarter dunk that was the first one he has ever converted in an Oxford gym. Lightsey, a sophomore who came to the Lions from White Plains, had 14 points and the way he has improved since playing 10 seconds in last year’s championship game, Jones said, “we don’t win without him.”

But Steed was the show on this night. He brought the crowd to its feet with a dunk on the breakaway created by its defense in the third quarter.

“That was my first one in Oxford, actually,” he said. “Every one that I’ve taken in the City of Oxford I’ve blown it. We’ve used this court for a home court three times this season. I missed two in this gym and across the road at Trinity I blew one. Everywhere else I’ve tried to dunk I’ve made it – except for Oxford. When I was up there tonight I was like I got to get it.”

Now, they’d all like to get the title that eluded them a year ago. To win it they will have to beat another undefeated team — one that has never lost. Union Chapel, 24-0 this season, hasn’t lost in 63 games of its three-year ACAA varsity existence.

“We’ve got the hard road today,” Jones said. “I’m definitely glad to get another crack at them, for sure.

Union Chapel 63, Tabernacle 59

Eighth-grader Brandon Davis scored a layup off his steal and hit two free throws all in the final 15 seconds to help the Ambassadors turn back a game Tabernacle comeback attempt.

The Ambassadors led by 20 early in the fourth quarter, but the Torches got within three with 27.2 seconds left before Davis burned them. It certainly didn’t help the Ambassadors’ cause they missed seven straight free throws down the stretch.

“Our players got cocky, they got lax and that kind of took the momentum of everything and the other team capitalized on it,” Union Chapel coach Jerrell Phipps said. “If we’re going to get (the championship), it’s going to take a better game than this.”

Brandon McCarver led Union Chapel with 21 points. Ternacle freshman Cobie Howard led all scorers with 27 points, 14 in the second half.


Mountain View 54, Cornerstone 38

The Birmingham-area Eagles finally broke through to win a Final Four game and now have the chance to win their first state championship since 2010.

The Eagles had lost in the semifinals each of the previous two seasons under coach Matt Bookout and didn’t make the year before that, but they got through this time with a big second half.

“That was our goal,” Bookout said. “We wanted to get the state championship, but we wanted to come out and prove we’re not just a one-and-done type team.”

The Eagles (13-2) got scoring from six players in the third quarter to run their 24-22 halftime lead to 39-28 going into the fourth quarter.

“It shows me we have some heart within our team,” Bookout said. “We came out sluggish in the first half but I told them at halftime I wanted to see heart, I wanted to see passion. They showed it and we pulled it off. Today they wanted to come back from what they did last year and just really put it to them.”

Hunter Williams led Mountain View with 20 points. The bus ride to the gym gave him plenty of time to reflect on the shortcomings of the previous two seasons.

“For us to make it I give all the glory to God,” he said. “The whole time I was here I was praying He would give me the ability to carry on. Every shot I shot was for Him. I’m glad we could come together as a team and get this victory.”

The Eagles will play Conecuh Springs, a team it has beaten twice already this season, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

“This feels amazing; I just give God the glory for giving me this last final chance,” Williams said. “I’m just going to leave it all out on the floor. I don’t know if I’ll ever play college basketball anywhere. As far as I know tomorrow could be my last game ever, so I just want to leave it all out on the court.”

Conecuh Springs 61, Cullman 46

Khalil Perry scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to spark the Conecuh Springs comeback.

Cullman (12-3) led 23-16 halftime, but Perry came to life with 11 in the third quarter as the Eagles (15-6) took the lead. Joseph Adams added 15 points in the game for Conecuh Springs.


Victory Christian found itself in familiar territory after beating Tabernacle 38-34 in the Division I girls semifinals.

The Eagles (18-3), out of Columbus, Miss., will be going for their fourth straight state title Saturday against Lindsay Lane.

They had just the right combination of inside and outside play to get through despite being what coach Chris Hamm called “a little out of sync.”

The Eagles trailed 9-7 at halftime, but junior guard Kennedy Blunt hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points in the third quarter as they opened a 24-15 lead. When the Lady Torches (15-6) tied the game at 24, Victory turned to its inside game with Alex Brown, Rebekah Smith and Faith Miley for, well, victory.

“Kennedy can hit 3s and she got on a roll there and that kind of broke the ice for us,” Hamm said. “That’s her contribution to the team … and we needed it today.”

Blunt, who has played on the two previous state championship teams, was happy to have done her part.

“I got kind of nervous and I knew I had to come out and step up for my team to do what we really wanted,” she said. “It felt great to hear the fans cheer my name on and that made me want to do even better.”

Miley finished with 13 points for Victory. Faith Howard led Tabernacle with 13.

“We gutted it out,” Hamm said.

Lindsay Lane 44, New Life 40

Emilee Murr scored 22 points and Cally Glass and Tori Taylor had 10 each to lead Lindsey Lane. Jenni Blevins scored 22 for New Life (21-5).

The Lions (25-5) will join the AHSAA (Class 1A) next season.

ACAA State Championships
At Oxford Civic Center

Friday’s games

Division I Girls
Lindsay Lane (Athens) 44, New Life (Millbrook) 40
Victory (Columbus, Miss.) 38, Tabernacle (Gardendale) 34

Division II Boys
Conecuh Springs (Union Springs) 61, Cullman Christian 46
Mountain View Baptist (Birmingham) 54, Cornerstone (Decatur) 38

Division I Boys
Union Chapel (Huntsville) 63, Tabernacle (Gardendale) 59, 6:15 p.m.
First Assembly (Ashland) 63, Victory (Columbus, Miss.) 36

Saturday’s games

Girls championship, 11:30 a.m.
Division I Boys championship, 1:45 p.m.
Division II Boys championship, 3:30 p.m.


First Assembly 63, Victory (Miss.) 36

VICTORY (20-1) – Brad Scarborough 7 0-0 17, Anthony Sharp 2 4-6 8, Will Porter 4 3-5 11, Cody Bolton 0 0-0 0, Chandler Honnell 0 0-0 0, Reed Fulgham 0 0-0 0, Will Jones 0 0-0 0, Bo McCrary 0 0-0 0, Shane Bradford 0 0-0 0, Burkley Jernigan 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 7-11 36.

FIRST ASSEMBLY (15-5) – Connor Bailey 0 0-0 0, Zach Hurst 1 0-1 2, Zack Lightsey 6 2-2 14, Reynald Alvarez 3 0-0 6, Leland Steed 14 0-4 28, Trent Smith 1 0-0 2, Cole Bowen 0 0-0 0, Josiah Corson 4 1-1 9, Randy Hicks 1 0-0 2. Totals 30 3-8 63.

Victory 8 11 7 10 — 36
First Assembly 12 18 14 19 — 63

3-point goals: Victory 3 (Scarborough 3). Total fouls: Victory 9, First Assembly 12. Officials: Coley, Engel, Harvey.

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