E.A. Sports Today

Ambassadors just keep winning

Union Chapel hasn’t lost a game in three seasons, takes out First Assembly again for ACAA Division I title

First Assembly's Leland Steed splits the Union Chapel defense as he drives to the basket. (Photo by PrimeTimePrepz)

First Assembly’s Leland Steed splits the Union Chapel defense as he drives to the basket. (Photo by PrimeTimePrepz)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – One by one the players from Union Chapel climbed the ladder to cut a piece of the net from its second state championship.

All the players from First Assembly could do was watch silently, respectfully. They just had to hand it them.

Union Chapel completed a third straight undefeated season since becoming a varsity program with a resounding 77-49 victory in the ACAA Division I boys championship game Saturday at the Oxford Civic Center.

It was the 64th win in a row for the Huntsville-based Ambassadors (25-0), who would compare favorably locally to a cross between this year’s Sacred Heart and Saks teams.

“They were really athletic and just wore us down over time,” First Assembly coach Seth Jones said. “We hung and I thought we fought for a while, but eventually they were just too deep and too athletic and it just kind of got out of hand.

“We made it a long way, a lot farther than a lot of people thought we would. We played our best basketball at the right time, just ran into a better team.”

Eighth-grader Brandon Davis led five Union Chapel scorers in double figures with 18 points. Tournament MVP JaeShawn Pleasure had 13, Andrew Gray and Jaylin Anderson 16 apiece and Brandon McCarver 11.

Leland Steed did all he could to keep the Ashland team in it with 29 points, but the Ambassadors negated that with 10 3-pointers and still had other scoring. The Lions (15-6) didn’t hit a 3-pointer until 4:58 remained in the game and it was their only one.

“If we’re going to take away the 3 and cut off driving lanes, it was a tall task, so it was kind of pick your poison,” Jones said. “They didn’t shoot the ball quite as well earlier and we were getting a hand in, and then we got a little slower on our rotation and those 3s got a little bit easier and they made them.”

Four of the six players who scored for the Ambassadors had at least one 3. Anderson had four and Pleasure, the team’s only senior who has been through the entire 64-game run, had three. They hit seven of them in the second half.

“You just saw Ambassador basketball,” Union Chapel coach Jarriel Phipps said. “This is a great group of guys. They just play with a lot of intensity and heart. We try to hit the floor and leave no doubt. Leave it all out on the floor every game we play.”

Having dominated the Christian schools circuit for three years – they weren’t eligible for the state tournament their first season — the Ambassadors are trying to get into the AHSAA. Increasing the opportunities in girls sports appears to be the only hurdle. Phipps is hopeful they can join the public school association in the next year or two.

Cover photo: Union Chapel’s JaeShawn Pleasure gets his piece of the net shortly before being named tournament MVP.

Union Chapel 77, First Assembly 49

FIRST ASSEMBLY (15-6) – Zach Hurst 3 2-3 8, Zack Lightsey 4 1-2 10, Reynald Alvarez 1 0-0 2, Leland Steed 14 1-5 29, Josiah Corson 0 0-0 0, Trent Smith 0 0-0 0, Cole Bowen 0 0-0 0, Randy Hicks 0 0-0 0, Samuel Corson 0 0-0 0, Rette Meadows 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 4-10 49.

UNION CHAPEL (25-0) – JaeShawn Pleasure 5 0-0 13, Brandon Davis 7 4-4 18, Brandon McCarver 5 1-4 11, Jaylin Anderson 6 0-2 16, Zyan Green 0 0-0 0, Macario Kelley 0 0-0 0, Amari Blake 0 0-0 0, Javen Gopher 1 0-0 3, Andrew Gray 7 0-0 16, Nigel Stevenson 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 5-10 77.

First Assembly 14 13 11 11 — 49
Union Chapel 16 18 25 18 — 77

3-point goals: First Assembly 1 (Lightsey); Union Chapel 10 (Pleasure 3, Anderson 4, Gopher, Gray 2). Total fouls: First Assembly 7, Union Chapel 13. Officials: Douthit, Morgan, Caldwell.

Division I All-Tournament Team – Union Chapel: JaeShawn Pleasure (MVP), Brandon McCarver, Jaylin Anderson; First Assembly: Leland Steed, Zack Lightsey; Tabernacle: John White, Cobie Howard;
Tuscaloosa: David Pearce; New Life: Nick Wyatt; Victory Christian: Brad Scarborough, Anthony Sharp.

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