E.A. Sports Today

JCA stuns J’ville

Thunder knocks off bigger school in town for first time, and gets first County Tournament win ever in the process

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Christian boys packed a whole lot of program history in the 32 minutes of basketball they played Saturday morning at Jacksonville State.

The Thunder beat Jacksonville 66-58 in the first round of the Calhoun County Tournament and it was significant on a number of fronts.

It was believed to be JCA’s first-ever victory over its bigger city public-school brothers in boys basketball and its first-ever win in the County Tournament.

Which was the bigger deal depends on the side of the generational fence you’re on.

“For us (players) it might have been beating Jacksonville, but for Dr. Miller (JCA coach and headmaster Tommy Miller) it was winning our first county tournament game, which is a big deal for a small school like us,” Thunder senior Reed Murphy said.

He knows his coach well.

“It’s really not so much who we played … but it’s the fact we were able to finish the game and get that win in the county tournament, which has eluded us for a long time at JCA,” Miller said. “We’ve been in it 12 or 14 years now and it’s the first time we’ve been able to pull one out.

“I think it’s a big day any time you win your first game in a county tournament or anything you participate in every year.”

Of course, the new bracketing format, which Miller didn’t favor as a tournament traditionalist, played a part in the Class 1A Thunder’s win.

Before the format was changed last year to give the lower seeds a chance to stick around a little longer, the bracket was set up with traditional seeding and JCA would always draw one of the best teams in town doomed to sit the rest of the week after its typical first-round loss.

Now, the 13th seeded Thunder will have a different role come Monday. They’ll play fifth-seeded White Plains at 1:30 p.m. instead of watching the rest of the tournament unfold from the stands.

Murphy led the Thunder with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Walker Russell had 13 points and Jayden Mitchell had nine points and 14 boards. All three have been slowed by sprained ankles at various points this season, and Murphy said Saturday might have been the best he’s felt on it since the injury occurred.

Kobe Messer scored 14 points.

Murphy certainly was “a major part” of the Thunder’s biggest win locally.

“Reed’s stature is about 5-10, 5-9 and he plays about 36 inches off the floor,” Miller said. “If he were 6-2 he would dominate; his jumping ability is something else. I’ll tell you one thing, he demolishes the theory that white men can’t jump. He plays very, very hard … but today he kept his head very good, he worked inside and it paid off.”

The Thunder held the upper hand throughout the game, but every time they would stretch the lead, Jacksonville would always manage to come back. Murphy described the flow “like a roller coaster.”

DeAndre McCain led 4A Jacksonville with 20 points, hitting 6-of-15 3-point attempts to keep the Golden Eagles in it. Rivan Hill had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Golden Eagles got it to within one with 3:21 to play, but the Thunder, behind Murphy and Messer, stretched the lead to the final horn.

“I felt like we played maybe our best game of the year so far today,” Miller said.

And now they get to play a second game in the County Tournament. A new experience, for sure.

Jacksonville Christian 66, Jacksonville 58
Reed Murphy 10-21 6-10 27, Kobe Messer 5-10 0-0 14, Walker Messer 4-13 5-5 13, Jayden Mitchell 2-3 5-8 9, Chase Cobb 1-1 0-0 3, Justin Tignor 0-1 0-0 0, Elijah McCormack 0-6 0-3 0, Nash Messer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 16-26 66.

JACKSONVILLE – DeAndre McCain 6-19 2-2, Rivan Hill 8-15, 0-0 19, Cade Landers 3-9 0-2 7, Alex Gilbert 3-0 0-0 6, Alex Davis 2-5 0-0 4, Hunter Vinson 1-2 0-0 2, Jay Davis 0-2 0-0 0, K.J. Satcher 0-0 0-2 0, Ron Wiggins 0-4 0-0 0, Quinn Long 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Glass 0-0 0-0 0, Tahj Kirkland 0-2 0-0 0, Jesse Wilson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-67 2-6 58.

JCA 10 18 11 27 — 66
Jacksonville 10 19 8 21 — 58

3-point goals: JCA 6-17 (Murphy 1-3, K. Messer 4-6, W. Messer 0-2, Mitchell 0-1, Cobb 1-1, McCormack 0-4); Jacksonville 10-28 (McCain 6-15, Hill 3-5, Landers 1-2, Gilbert 0-2, J. Davis 0-1, Wiggins 0-3). Rebounds: JCA 41 (Murphy 13, Mitchell 14); Jacksonville 44 (Hill 10). Total fouls: JCA 9, Jacksonville 22.

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