E.A. Sports Today

Too many weapons

Saks falls in Northeast Regional final to a Madison Academy team with deep 3s and a deeper lineup

Saks’ all-tournament pick DeVaunghn Beason cuts between Madison Academy’s Calvin Bacon (25) and KeKe Matthews in the Northeast Regional 4A title game. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Saks coach Jonathan Miller thought his team was in pretty good position when Madison Academy’s top scorer stepped off the floor to attend an injury with three minutes left in the third quarter of a one-point game.

If the Wildcats ever were going to make their move in this Class 4A Northeast Regional final — and they were very much in it — this was going to be the time.

But the Mustangs just had too many weapons.

Saks made it a one-possession game after trailing by seven at halftime and Madison Academy’s tournament MVP Myles Parker had just left the game with a hand injury. Time to make some hay, the Wildcats thought.

But Collin Blanchard stepped up to take personal charge of the Mustangs’ fate and sparked a 15-2 run that carried into the fourth quarter and lifted Madison Academy to a 78-69 victory Thursday at Jacksonville State.

“I felt good at that point,” Miller said. “We had the momentum at that point. We wanted to take advantage of that.

“I thought we were playing well and they weren’t shooting it as good coming out the third quarter so I definitely liked our position. The biggest thing that hurt was foul trouble.”

The Wildcats (20-10) was down one with 3:01 to play in the third when Parker left the floor to treat a ripped ring finger on his right hand, and DeVaunghn Beason was going to the line for two free throws.

Beason made both shots to put the Wildcats up 51-50, but then the Mustangs (24-6) — or rather Blanchard — embarked on the run that gave them control of the game.

Blanchard had the first eight points of the run, part of a stretch of 12 straight points he scored for his team, and finished with a game-high 24 points in 32 minutes. He was one of four Madison Academy players scoring in double figures, begging the question all their opponents ask — Who do you guard?

The run started with a free throw, then back-to-back layups that gave the Mustangs the lead for good. Parker re-entered at that point and Blanchard capped that possession with a 3-pointer.

“He was locked in today,” MA coach Andy Blackston said. “If you’re going to go deep in these tournaments you’ve got to have players who rise up when the moment is tense. I knew he was playing good, I didn’t know it was 12 points (in a row); that’s an unbelievable effort.”

“It was more of just letting the game come to me,” Blanchard said. “Before the games and during practices and stuff coaches just say let the game come to me and that’s when I play the best. So it was just when somebody goes out let the game come to me and just being able to make plays.”

It didn’t help the Wildcats that two of their top players, Darien Briskey and Tray Huguley, were sitting with foul trouble most of the quarter.

Both teams started the game sharp from the outside. Madison Academy was 6-for-9 from 3-point range in the first quarter and 8-for-15 in the first half to build a 41-34 halftime lead. Saks, meanwhile, was 6-of-10 from 3-point range in the half.

“Usually up here it takes you a little while to get into the swing of things because the way the gym’s set up and it’s a different depth deception, but both teams really didn’t struggle with it,” Miller said. “We played up here three times and maybe we’re used to it now. We didn’t shoot it well the previous two times, but I think we shot a little bit better today.

“Madison Academy, they’re tough. They’ve got five guys who can shoot the 3 and they spread you so thin. And then they have the great player, No. 1 (Parker), who can penetrate and you have all those shooters spotted up.”

But the Mustangs weren’t confined to scoring from the outside. When they took it inside they were fouled and were 11 of 12 from the line in the first half. They finished the game 23-of-31 from the line. Saks, meanwhile, was only 6-for-8.

Beason and Alfonza Ward made the all-tournament team for Saks.

Saks’ Jamal Stone (10) soars between two Madison Academy defenders on his way to the basket. Stone scored seven points off the bench for the Wildcats.

Madison Academy 78, Saks 69
Myles Parker 3-7 8-10 17, KeKe Matthews 0-2 4-4 4, Calvin Walker 5-9 1-2 12, Calvin Bacon 5-8 8-10 21, Collin Blanchard 9-14 2-5 24, Adam Hairston 0-1 0-0 0, Jaylen Pressley 0-1 0-0 0, James Nix 0-1 0-0 0, Luke Tomlinson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-44 23-31 78.

SAKS (20-10) – Darien Briskey 2-8 3-3 7, DeVaunghn Beason 6-13 3-4 19, LaDerrick Bell 1-2 0-0 3, Alfonza Ward 7-14 0-1 15, Tray Huguley 8-11 0-0 16, Jamal Stone 3-6 0-0 7, Jaylen Young 0-0 0-0 0, Jalen Borders 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 28-56 6-8 32.

Madison Academy 24 17 22 15 — 78
Saks 16 18 19 16 — 69

3-point goals: Madison Academy 11-24 (Parker 3-5, Matthews 0-1, Walker 1-3, Bacon 3-6, Blanchard 4-7, Pressley 0-1, Tomlinson 0-1); Saks 7-17 (Beason 4-7, Bell 1-2, Ward 1-6, Stone 1-2). Rebounds: Madison Academy 24 (Parker 6); Saks 32 (Beason 6, Huguley 6). Fouled out: Briskey, Bell. Total fouls: Madison Academy 12, Saks 21. Officials: Hunter Allen, Cory Hughes, Cory McKinney.

Saks’ Alfonza Ward (4) puts up a shot between Collin Blanchard (32) and tournament MVP Myles Parker. Blanchard played a key role in Madison Academy’s decisive third-quarter run. All three players made the all-tournament team.

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