E.A. Sports Today

JCA wins thriller

Thunder’s historic run continues with victory in its first-ever game in the Northeast Regionals; Vinson goes for 39 points, 21 rebounds, Murr has 56 for Lindsay Lane

JCA’s Eli Fair (11) had the defensive assignment on Lindsay Lane’s Tommy Murr most of the game. Despite Fair’s best efforts, Murr went for 56 points. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE – Jacksonville Christian waited its entire AHSAA life to make it to the Northeast Regional and when it finally got here Thursday the Thunder found it to be everything they expected – and more.
The Thunder, the team with the shortest drive to the arena of any team at Jacksonville State, avoided the longest ride home when they got some of the best individual efforts of the year and beat Lindsay Lane 82-78 in overtime in their first-ever game in the Northeast Regionals.
The Thunder (23-6) has been an AHSAA team since 2002. They’ve played several sub-region basketball games on the road over the years, but Thursday was their first time on the stage that’s the regionals. Now, they’re a win over area rival Spring Garden (Monday 4:45 p.m.) away from the Final Four in Birmingham.
“Of course I’m very, very proud of the way our fellas hung in there after we let them slip back in there at the end of that thing,” JCA coach Tommy Miller said. “Our guys played really hard the whole game tonight. We had to do that to get here against Ragland and I feel like playing hard carried over into tonight.
“We made some mistakes and that’s what let them back in it, but in the end, we did what we had to do.”
He later caught himself choking up when he started to talk about the historical significance of the night.

“These guys, they mean a lot to me,” Miller said, finally finding the words. “They mean a lot to our whole school and the JCA family.

“For me, I’ve been here a long time. I want it for them. I know a lot of coaches say that, but that’s the absolute truth. I can go home and get in my recliner and get my squirt cheese and crackers and I’ll be happy. These guys have got a long way to go and what they’re doing right now is something they’re going to remember all their life.”

The game was a shootout between two of the most dynamic players in Class 1A. The Thunder had an answer for Lindsay Lane’s Tommy Murr, and it came in the form of three scorers, but the Lions didn’t have an answer for JCA’s 6-7 Chase Vinson inside.
Vinson led the Thunder with 39 points , 21 rebounds and four blocked shots, and got a lot of supplemental help from Kobe Messer (17) and Eli Fair (14).

Vinson was 14-of-17 from the floor, 4-for-4 on putbacks. He had nine of the Thunder’s 16 points in overtime, including five free throws in the final 14 seconds, two with 5.8 left that gave them a three-point lead before some confusion reigned at the finish. His 21 rebounds were two fewer than Lindsay Lane had as a team.
“That’s pretty good; if he’d have scored one more point and had 40 I’d say that was real good,” Miller deadpanned. “The game that got us here (Ragland Tuesday) and tonight I felt like Chase is playing completely different than he played all year long. He is playing with more intensity right now.”
“It’s a ‘win it or lose it’ situation,” Vinson said. “You lose and go home and not ever play high school basketball again or win and keep playing. It’s my senior season and I just really want to make it as far as we can with the team I have.”

JCA’s Brady Shaddix (R) moves in to cut off the drive of Lindsay Lane’s Charles Morrison. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

JCA needed every bit of what its big scorers gave because Murr, the state’s all-time leading scorer and second-leading scorer in the nation this season, closed his high school career with 56 points. He was 23-of-47 from the floor, taking two more shots than JCA’s big three scorers combined. He scored 16 in the fourth quarter, including the layup with 1:08 left that gave the Lions their first lead since midway through the second quarter.
He finished the season with 1,506 points and his career with 5,716 (a 31.6 average in 181 games).

Murr, of course, had the ball in his hands at the end of regulation with a chance to win it, but he lost the handle driving the lane with 4.7 seconds left and was called for an offensive foul. Messer appeared to go for an oop to Vinson from mid-court on the ensuing possession, but the pass was too far and caromed off the backboard and the horn sounded.
JCA scored the first two buckets of overtime and were up75-70 with 1:55 to go, but Lindsay Lane turned up the defense and took a 78-77 lead with 30 seconds left. Vinson hit two free throws with 13.4 seconds left to put the Thunder ahead for good. Murr tried to zip a pass into Roderick Watkins but it was too crisp and went out of bounds without being touched with 8.7 to go.
Vinson hit two more free throws with 5.8 left to make it 81-78. The Lions passed it between themselves on the end line to dew up Murr on a fly route for a 3. The officials had advance warning what was coming, but the clock operator started the clock before the ball was touched in bounds with an apparent JCA foul to avoid the 3 on the far baseline.
The officials conferred, met with the coaches and eventually awarded the Lions possession at mid-court with 3.2 seconds left (although 2.2 showed on the clock at the whistle). The new inbounds pass was wild down the sideline and Vinson was fouled as it was going out of bounds. He made one of two free throws with three-tenths of a second left for the final margin.
The only quarter the Thunder seemed to slow Murr down was the second, when they went on a 17-3 run between the Lions’ opening and closing 3-pointers to take a 31-27 halftime lead, and he still scored six points, including that 3 right before the horn. Fair drew the defensive assignment and drew praise for his play even though Murr scored more points than eight teams have gotten against JCA in a game this year.
“He’s the best player I’ve seen on this court except for (Memphis Grizzlies rookie) Ja Morant (from Murray State),” Fair said. “I think he’s gonna shock a lot of people at Lipscomb with how good he’s going to be. I promise you I gave everything I had guarding him and he ended up with 56 points. I mean, there’s very few people in the country who could do that.
“Making state is a big motivation but I think the biggest motivation to me is this team’s like a family and I know if we lose that’s my last time ever getting to play with them and I’m not ready for that, so I’m going to give my all every time on that court just to make sure it’s not this game it happens.”

JCA’s Kobe Messer (21) and Tanner Wilson (1) make a combined effort to stop Lindsay Lane’s Tommy Murr. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Cover photo: JCA’s Chase Vinson and Lindsay Lane’s Tommy Murr were the stars of the game. Vinson went for 39 points and 21 rebounds, while Murr scored 56 points. (Photo by B.J. Franklin).
To see more photos from the game visit this link: www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Jacksonville Christian 82, Lindsay Lane 78
Maxwell Morrison 1-1 1-2 4, Brady Anderson 1-2 0-0 2, Marvin Fuqua 1-3 0-0 2, Tommy Murr 23-47 7-10 56, Charles Morrison 6-10 1-2 14, Roderick Watkins 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Frasier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-63 9-14 78.
JCA (23-6) – Brady Shaddix 1-4 1-2 4, Chase Vinson 14-17 11-14 39, Eli Fair 6-12 1-2 14, Nash Messer 3-9 1-5 8, Kobe Messer 7-20 0-0 17, Tanner Wilson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 31-64 14-23.
Lindsay Lane                           19  9    17 22  12  –  78
JCA                                              14  17  21 14  16  –  82
3-point goals: Lindsay Lane 5-22 (Morrison 1-1, Murr 3-17, Morrison 1-4); JCA 6-27 (Shaddix 1-4, Fair 1-3, N. Messer 1-4, K. Messer 3-14, Wilson 0-2). Rebounds: Lindsay Lane 23 (Murr 10); JCA 49 (Vinson 21). Fouled out: Morrison, Anderson. Total fouls: Lindsay Lane 18, JCA 14. Officials: Rutherford, Binion, McQueen.
Spring Garden 49, Skyline 46
SKYLINE (31-3) –
Dawson Wynn 3-12 1-2 7, Jaxen White 3-14 0-1 9, Kordell Talley 2-5 0-1 5, Jaylon Clements 4-12 1-2 11, Collin Lockard 5-10 2-4 12, Conner Lockard 0-1 0-0 0, Dylan Bickers 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 18-57 4-10 46.
SPRING GARDEN (23-6) – Weston Kirk 8-24 3-5 21, Cooper Austin 5-15 1-3 15, Ryley Kirk 1-8 0-1 3, Luke Welsh 2-4 1-2 5, Chaz Pope 2-5 0-0 5, Lucas Byers 0-1 0-0 0, Cameron Welsh 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-59 5-11 49.
Skyline                 10  12 12  12  –  46
Spring Garden    10  14 13  12  –  49
3-point goals: Skyline 6-27 (Wynn 0-1, White 3-12, Talley 1-3, Clements 2-7, Cl. Lockard 0-1, Cn. Lockard 0-1, Bickers 0-2); Spring Garden 8-29 (W. Kirk 2-8, AAustin 4-10, R. Kirk 1-8, Pope 1-2, Byers 0-1). Rebounds: Skyline 44 (Clements 12, Wynn 11); Spring Garden 44 (Pope 13, W. Kirk 8, Austin 8). Total fouls: Skyline 15, Spring Garden 14. Officials: Young, Rutherford, Kelser. Note: Clements had 8 blocked shots for Skyline. 

JCA’s Eli Fair (11), Kobe Messer (21) and Chase Vinson are escorted to the interview room after leading the Thunder to an overtime regional win over Lindsay Lane.


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