E.A. Sports Today

Turning a loss into a win

Pulling off a scheduling coup to draw a home game with Alexandria gives JCA a chance to be uniquely challenged

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE – On about the time of the Calhoun County Cross Country Championships, Jacksonville Christian basketball coach Tommy Miller was in search of one more home game to complete his schedule.
He wasn’t shy about the type team he wanted to bring into his gym: A team from a bigger classification willing to come for a one-time game that would give the Thunder all it could handle in a way it wouldn’t get otherwise.

He considered Sacred Heart. Jacksonville had been there before. He finally struck a deal with Alexandria and the game, Monday night, gave Miller and the Thunder everything they were looking for. Winning would have been a bonus.
The 5A Valley Cubs might have only been practicing a handful of times, but they had enough size, strength and depth to hold off the Thunder for a 67-56 season-opening victory.
“I think that’s going to help us, I do,” Miller said. “I haven’t counted the money yet, but I think we made some money and that’s part of it. We have to do what we can.
“If I remember right I said we need somebody to get after us and get on us, and we got that. I think we did OK. I appreciate them coming up here to play us.”
It isn’t often teams from much larger classifications will go on the road to play their little brothers, unless there’s a special circumstance. Gadsden City and Plainview, to name a couple, have come to Sacred Heart, but it’s because they know the type game they’re going to get from the Cardinals. For his part, Johnson was happy to oblige.
“I’ve known Coach Miller for a long time; he’s a good guy, does things the right way,” he said. “He wanted a little bit of help and I don’t mind. People have helped me all my career. Coach Miller when I was starting out he was in it. He’s been a good role model for the sport. You like to help good people.”
The Valley Cubs did get after JCA, and the Thunder didn’t roll over. Alexandria jumped out to an early 14-4 lead, but the Thunder turned four straight turnovers on the press into nine points to get within one. The Cubs then scored the next 17 points of the half and led by 22 at halftime, hitting seven 3-pointers in the process.
The break gave the Thunder a chance to have a “serious” discussion about their play and make some adjustments, and they did play better in the second half. They got as close as 10 points late in the third quarter because the Valley Cubs pulled away again.
“I knew it was going to be a close game, I had no inclination that it wasn’t going to be,” Johnson said. “We were kind of worried because we hadn’t had too many days of practice, but that’s OK. We always like to have a late start, that means your football has done well. I thought the guys competed hard tonight. We had a few lulls, but you’ve gotta give JCA some credit; they have a fine little team.”
The game provided an intriguing matchup between Alexandria post Landan Williams and JCA’s double-double machine Chase Vinson. Early on, Vinson made hay when Williams was out with foul trouble, but the second half he was more assertive.
Vinson scored 17 straight points for the Thunder in the third quarter, the first eight after Williams came out with three fouls, but the last nine after he re-entered the game. Vinson finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Williams led the Valley Cubs with 18 points, nine boards and three assists.
“I realized what I did wrong so I had to correct it,” Vinson said. “I wasn’t playing aggressive. I know I can keep up with all the people in the county.”
ALEXANDRIA (1-0) – Javais McGhee 3 0-0 7, Adam Young 0 1-1 1, Collin Taylor 5 1-4 14, D’Anthony Walton 5 0-0 13, Ivonta Davis 0 0-0 0, Seth Slaton 1 0-0 3, Julian Wright 3 1-2 7, Dustin Warren 2 0-0 4, Javarius Williams 0 0-0 0, Landan Williams 7 4-4 18. Totals 26 7-11 67.
JACKSONVILLE CHRISTIAN (5-1) – Tanner Wilson 0 0-0 0, Brady Shaddix 1 3-5 6, Chase Vinson 9 10-13 28, Tavian Alexander 1 1-3 3, Eli Fair 1 0-0 3, Nash Messer 1 1-2 3, Kobe Messer 5 0-0 13, Jonathan Carter 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 15-23 56.
Alexandria    26        19        13        9          –          67
JCA                  13        10        20        13        –          56
3-point goals: Alexandria 8 (McGhee, Taylor 3, Walton 3, Slaton); JCA 5 (Shaddix, Fair, K. Messer 3). Rebounds: Alexandria 32 (Williams 9, Young 5, Davis 5, Warren 5); JCA 25 (Vinson 10). Steals: Alexandria 15 (Young 5), JCA 7 (Shaddix 2, N. Messer 2, Alexander 2). Assists: Alexandria 11 (McGhee 4, Williams 3); JCA 10 (Shaddix 4). Technical fouls: Alexandria coach Johnson. Total fouls: Alexandria 18, JCA 9. Officials: Chambers, Batey, Pratt.

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