E.A. Sports Today

Boys county seeds

Sacred Heart, Oxford easily top two seeds in County Tournament and then hold on; Oxford coach says ‘they got it right’

Sacred Heart pulled down the No. 1 seed in the boys county tournament for the second year in a row. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/KrispPicsPhotography)

I think we have coaches who really care about the tournament and care about basketball and they wanted to get it right — and I think they got it right.

–Oxford coach Joel VanMeter on the debate for seeds 3 through 6

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – Sacred Heart and Oxford were firmly entrenched as the top two boys seeds in the upcoming Calhoun County Tournament, but the best debate of the seeding meeting was saved for the next four slots in the bracket.

Everyone connected with the tournament — participants and observers alike — came to the same conclusion: You could put Anniston, Saks, White Plains and Alexandria all in a hat and any order probably would have been fine.

Between records, head-to-head play and common opponents it was that close.

Ultimately, Anniston stepped up to take the generous No. 3 when White Plains and Alexandria offered themselves up for the 5 and 6. That’s exactly how it settled Wednesday with Anniston, Saks, White Plains and Alexandria falling into those respective slots.

“There wasn’t any strategy to it,” Anniston coach Torry Brown said. “It was a situation where anybody could have been the 3; all of us were pretty much the same. Clearly Sacred Heart and Oxford have played better than anybody else. All the others are jumbled and it didn’t matter. It was a matter of saying, well, if no one else wants it, we’ll take it.”

White Plains coach Chris Randall’s pitch to fall back was simple: He wanted to play the extra game on the Pete Mathews Coliseum floor that comes with a No. 6 (or 5) seed. Alexandria coach Jason Johnson, whose team was outside the head-to-head gymnastics of the other three, played up his team’s rash of injuries.

Oxford coach Joel VanMeter, for one, appreciated the debate.

“I thought it was great,” he said. “I thought it showed that we have basketball coaches who care about the County Tournament.

“I’ve been in there before where one person would’ve raised his hand and said this team (for a certain seed) and another person would’ve raised his hand for another, but I think we have coaches who really care about the tournament and care about basketball and they wanted to get it right — and I think they got it right.

“Not to say that Sacred Heart and us are that much better, because I don’t think we are, it just shows you the majority thought no question Sacred Heart, the majority thought no question us, and those next four teams we needed to talk it out and I thought it was good we did. It just shows you the importance.”

In any event, here are the seeds: Sacred Heart, Oxford, Anniston, Saks, White Plains, Alexandria, Weaver, Wellborn, Piedmont, Ohatchee, Faith Christian, Jacksonville, JCA, Donoho, Pleasant Valley.

You’ll have to pardon Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves if he doesn’t put much stock in the tournament seedings. The Cardinals were the No. 1 seed last year as the defending champions and Class 1A No. 1 and lost in the finals to an Anniston team whose coach – Graves’ former coach – Schuessler Ware confirmed his retirement a few days earlier.

You might think the Cardinals have plenty of incentive as they enter the tournament. In addition to seeking to reclaim the county title, they continue to move forward from the midseason suspensions that impacted their record in games against several top-flight opponents.

Now they’re operating with their full complement of players again and appear more driven as ever. They scored 113 points in a game Tuesday night.

You might think that about the incentive, but Graves is more interested in the moment. When the tournament arrives the Cardinals’ focus will be on winning it and you either play well against the team you draw that day or you don’t.

“We’re going to play the way that we play, we’re going to coach our team the way we coach our team and we’re going to do what we do,” Graves said. “What happened last month was destined that it was going to happen, God already knew it, and everybody wanted to see exactly how we handled it. That’s over with so we’re not playing for that any more’ we’re through that experience. We’re just playing for what we are right now.”

As for his team’s seed, VanMeter was appreciative.

“I think (Sacred Heart) is very deserving of the No. 1 seed, until somebody knocks them off, and I think it’s a reward for our kids to be the No. 2 seed in the county tournament to show the progress that they’ve made,” he said. “Our guys have worked hard and they’re coming together and I think being able to be the No. 2 seed kind of gives them something that people are recognizing what we’re doing.

“It’s rewarding. It makes you feel good, no question, that your counterparts and those teams you play in the county think that highly of you. But at the end of the day you have to go out on the floor and play the games, but it’s a reward to our kids that they’ve come as far as they have. Two and three years ago we won eight and nine games and this group has slowly come along.”

The tournament opens Jan. 14 and runs through Jan. 21.

Oxford was a comfortable No. 2 seed at the county meeting, avoiding the debate that followed for spots 3 through 6. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)


(All games at Jacksonville State, Jan. 14-21)
(overall, in-county records)

1. Sacred Heart (14-7, 5-0)
2. Oxford (11-6, 1-0)
3. Anniston (9-7, 1-1)
4. Saks (10-4, 6-1)
5. White Plains (10-5, 5-1)
6. Alexandria (12-5, 2-1)
7. Weaver (8-4, 5-2)
8. Wellborn (5-6, 2-5)
9. Piedmont (4-8, 2-1)
10. Ohatchee (5-10, 2-5)
11. Faith Christian (4-10, 2-4)
12. Jacksonville (2-10, 1-5)
13. Jacksonville Christian (5-4, 1-2)
14. Donoho (2-12, 0-4)
15. Pleasant Valley (0-16, 0-2)

Jan. 14 Games
JCA vs. Jacksonville, 10:30 a.m.
Donoho vs. Faith, 1:30 p.m.
Ohatchee vs. Pleasant Valley, 4:30 p.m.
Wellborn vs. Piedmont, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 16 Games
JCA-Jacksonville winner vs. White Plains, 1:30 p.m.
Donoso-Faith winner vs. Alexandria, 4:30 p.m.
Ohatchee-Pleasant Valley winner vs. Weaver, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 17 Games
JCA/Jacksonville/White Plains vs. Saks, 5:30 p.m.
Wellborn-Piedmont winner vs. Sacred Heart, 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 19 Games
Donoho/Faith/Alexandria vs. Anniston, 4 p.m.
Ohatchee/Pleasant Valley/Weaver vs. Oxford, 7 p.m.

Jan. 20 Games
Semifinal No. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Semifinal No. 2, 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 21 Game
Boys Championship, 8 p.m.

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