E.A. Sports Today

Golden Eagles’ run ends

Jacksonville boys fall in regionals, but loss doesn’t diminish turnaround

Cade Landers (34) tries to drive around Madison Academy’s Jaylen Pressley. Landers was Jacksonville’s leading scorer in the Northeast Regional game. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see a photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — All Cordell Hunt was looking for in his second season as Jacksonville’s basketball coach was a little improvement in every phase of the game.

Expectations were high in his first year and the Golden Eagles woefully missed the mark. After a tumultuous offseason that included talk of changing coaches, Hunt was out for better this season and the Golden Eagles’ delivered.

The turnaround was impressive, Coach of the Year kind of stuff. They won 19 games — 16 more than the year before.

The run didn’t last as long as they’d like, of course, The Golden Eagles’ turnaround season ended Monday in a 70-34 loss to Madison Academy in the Class 4A Northeast Regionals.

“I hate for this year to come to an end like that,” Hunt said. “We had a really good year. We just ran up against a team that was better than us today. They shot the 3-ball really good. We didn’t defend like we could have to stop what they were doing.”

The Golden Eagles got buried under an avalanche of 3-pointers. Madison Academy (23-8) scored more points from behind the arc (36) than the Golden Eagles scored in the game and had one fewer bucket from back there than Jacksonville had overall.

It was already an 18-point game at halftime, then Madison Academy pulled away with a 26-5 third quarter in which six of its first eight buckets were 3-pointers. The Mustangs were 5-of-11 from behind the arc in the first half, then hit 6-of-9 in the third quarter.

“They were probably the best shooting team we faced all year,” junior guard Cade Landers said. “Coach stressed that to us. We knew they were able to shoot the ball … but they definitely shot better than what we saw on film. They just really brought their A-game today.”

Mustangs leading scorer Calvin Bacon (17 points) called it “fun” watching his teammates hit the 3-ball and make them himself. Bacon and Luke Reavis each hit four.

The Mustangs also executed their defensive game plan, holding Macey Carr to four points, keeping DeAndre McCain from hurting them outside and keeping Donovan McCain off the glass. Carr had nine rebounds, but no one else had more than three. Landers was Jacksonville’s leading scorer with eight points.

“I’ve kind of been telling these guys all year when they put defense first a lot of good things happen,” Mustangs coach Andy Blackston said. “Threes are really fun to watch, but what really changed our season is when we got committed on the defensive end.

“These guys executed our (defensive) game plan perfectly. When our guys listen and execute the game plan and when we execute with precision it really gives us a chance to be in every game.”

That’s really all Hunt and the Golden Eagles were looking for after a dismal 3-18 first year together. In the interim they added two key pieces – Carr from White Plains and Donavon McCain from Clay Central – and it made all the difference.

They got through the difficult 2-3 game in their area tournament to make the playoffs and won their subregion game on the road behind 28 points and 15 rebounds from Carr.

“We didn’t like to go 3-18 so we just decided we needed to do something to put Jacksonville back in its place,” Landers said.

“I just wanted to win more than three games,” DeAndre McCain said.

They certainly did that. Now they want more. McCain even talked about a Final Four next year and Hunt didn’t mind that.

“I consider this season a success, but we want to go further, we want to do more,” Hunt said. “We’ll get in the offseason and we’ll work and hopefully put an even better product on the floor for next season.

“Last year was just rough; everybody knows that. Hopefully we don’t have any more years like that at Jacksonville.”

Madison Academy 70, Jacksonville 34
Macey Carr 1-8 2-2 4, Ron Wiggins 3-11 0-0 6, DeAndre McCain 2-6 3-4 7, Donavon McCain 2-5 0-1 4, Cade Landers 3-9 1-2 8, Jay Davis 1-1 0-0 3, Carter Landers 0-1 0-0 0, DeMarien Stewart 0-2 0-0 0, Jaden Barksdale 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Davis 1-4 0-0 2, Alex Gilbert 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 13-52 6-9 34.

MADISON ACADEMY (23-8) – Jaylen Pressley 0-0 0-0 0, Luke Tomlinson 6-9 0-0 14, Calvin Walker 3-9 2-2 9, Reed Zitting 2-3 0-0 4, Calvin Bacon 6-9 1-2 17, Josh Malone 0-0 2-2 2, Jakari Anderson 3-6 0-0 6, Ty Walker 1-4 0-0 3, Luke Reavis 4-7 1-2 13, Smith Ogden 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-49 6-8 70.

Jacksonville 11 6 5 12 — 34
Madison Academy 17 18 26 9 — 70

3-point goals: Jacksonville 2-13 (Carr 0-2, Wiggins 0-1, De. McCain 0-3, Cd. Landers 1-1, J. Davis 1-1, Stewart 0-2, Barksdale 0-1, A. Davis 0-1, Gilbert 0-1); Madison Academy 12-23 (Tomlinson 2-3, Walker 1-5, Bacon 4-6, Walker 1-2, Reavis 4-6, Ogden 0-1). Rebounds: Jacksonville 30 (Carr 9); Madison Academy 36 (Zitting 7, Walker 7). Total fouls: Jacksonville 8, Madison Academy 12. Officials: Patrick Jolly, Byron Evans, Harlon Hutcheson.

Jacksonville’s Donavon McCain looks for an open man to escape the pressure of Madison Academy’s Jakari Anderson (10) and Luke Reavis. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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