E.A. Sports Today

Back to the future

Two young old-school Alexandria basketball alums bring their teams together in the Larry Ginn Gym and produce an instant classic with the Cubs winning in OT

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It was exactly the kind of game you’d expect between teams coached by two Alexandria boys cut out of the same cloth, who played in the same program, were coached by the same Alexandria legend, and were facing each other on the same floor they grew up learning the game.

Alexandria and Glencoe gave the crowd Tuesday night a taste of the backyard brawl this series used to be back in the day. With two teams playing with the same kind of grit of the Alexandria teams of old, the Valley Cubs team coached by Will Ginn took one from the Glencoe team coached by former Cubs standout Ryan Chambless 82-75 in overtime.

It was the dogfight Ginn had hoped it would be. It was filled with big shots and big plays with neither team yielding an inch – just like the two coaches were used to when they played in this gym for Alexandria legend Larry Ginn.

“Obviously we had great teacher in Larry Ginn; I think all of us learned a lot from him,” said Chambless, who was a junior on the Valley Cubs’ last basketball state championship team. “Anybody who played for him is probably going to have a similar style to what we were taught. Will does a great job coaching that and Todd’s right there with him on the bench, and those two guys really know what they’re doing.

“I thought we played really well. I thought they played extremely hard, too. It was a dang game, man. It was a tough game. It just come down to free throws at the end for us and they made some shots. Both teams really fought hard. I’m proud of my team for having played. I just wish we had finished it up better at the end.”

You want intensity. It definitely was the dogfight Will Ginn was hoping it would be. There were 10 lead changes in the first half, five on the last five possessions in the final two minutes after the third tie of the game. And halftime didn’t stop it.

The teams swapped the lead seven straight possessions to open the third quarter, making it 12 in a row and 17 total until Wade Segrest’s 3-pointer touched off a run that gave the Yellow Jackets a 10-point lead with less than two minutes left in the quarter.

“His team, they were just sound, like Daddy taught us to play,” Will Ginn said. “They didn’t give us anything easy. They played smart ball. All of them took care of the ball. They just were a well-coached team and that’s what you expect.

“Now, us, I don’t know if we necessarily can fit in that category tonight. But what I think we did if you want to take it back to those days is those last two minutes. We could have gone one or two ways. I challenged them and said who wants it. We’re about to find out who really wants it. Are y’all going to give in or are they going to give in? My guys really stepped up to the challenge. They fought to the end and it paid off.”

The Cubs didn’t back down. They didn’t get it all back at once but instead chipped away at the deficit. They eventually forced overtime behind Cleat Forrest’s heroics in the final 35 seconds that included going 4-for-4 at the foul line and hitting a smooth 3-pointer with 10.3 seconds left that tied the game at 71.

“I was cold all night,” said Forrest, who finished with 15 points, one of five Cubs in double figures. “I knew I had to go back to fundamentals, set my feet, follow through like I always do, and let it fall.”

Listening to him describe it, he sounded like he was talking about a game-winning field goal on the football field he’s so used to kicking. Sorry, different mindset.

“In kicking, you’ve got your set up and all that,” he said. “Basketball is a moving game. Kicking it’s all in your head.”

A clutch a shot as he made, there still was plenty of time for somebody to win it in regulation, but it was the Yellow Jackets who got the last chance. Alexandria’s defense trapped them into a time out with 3.7 seconds left to avoid a turnover. They eventually got it in to Segrest on the far side of the floor and after a few dribbles to get closer to the midcoast line he launched a long 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win that drew front iron.

Glencoe hit 12 3s in the game, six by Aiden Cornutt, who led all scorers with 28 points, and three by Segrest. Alexandria hit seven. But the Yellow Jackets were only 9-of-21 from the free throw line, while the Cubs were 27-of-43.

“They’ve got some good shooters on that team (and) they made a lot of shots,” Ginn said. “They made shots and we didn’t make a lot of shots, but we made the one that counted. And we made our free throws down the stretch, too.”

Jaylen Henderson, starting in place of Antonio Ross, who was prepping for the Alabama North-South All-Star Football Game, hit a 3-pointer to put Alexandria ahead for good in overtime. The Cubs maintained the lead by hitting eight of 14 free throws in the final 2:12, and when they missed senior post Kory Cargal rebounded to give them another chance. Cargal had 12 rebounds in the game.

“I felt like my teammates picked up the energy a little bit and if I didn’t pick up energy also I felt like I was letting them down,” Cargal said. “And I didn’t want to let the team down because they played so hard.”

The closest the Yellow Jackets got in the extra period was 78-75 with 38 seconds left. Forrest and T.K. Downie then each made a free throw, the Yellow Jackets missed a putback at the other end, and Forrest closed it out with two free throws with 13.2 seconds to play.

It was the first time Chambless has been back in Ginn Gym with an opposing team since he brought Jacksonville over in 2016. Despite the result of the latest game he wants to do it again.

“This is something I want to do every year because it makes us better,” he said. I know there was a time the Alexandria-Glencoe game was a really big game. I think we’re like nine miles apart or something like that, not very far, and it’s a great basketball game. Why not play it? We’ll get better from it.”

 Cooper Horton 1 0-4 2, Garrett Morgan 0 1-4 1, Aiden Cornutt 9 4-5 28, Wade Segrest 5 3-4 16, Braylen Smith 4 0-2 10, Baylor Langdale 1 0-0 2, Nolan Fairley 3 0-0 7, Andrew Greene 4 1-2 9. Totals 27 9-21 75.
ALEXANDRIA – Drake Davis 2 2-4 7, Evan Snow 4 6-7 16, T.K. Downie 3 3-8 10, Jaylen Henderson 5 3-4 15, Matthew McElroy 0 0-0 0, Kory Cargal 6 4-8 16, Cleat Forrest 3 8-10 15, Caleb Folsom 1 1-2 3. Totals 24 27-43 82.

Glencoe             18         16        21         16         4 –        75
Alexandria        14         21         15         21         11 –      82
3-point goals: Glencoe 12 (Cornutt 6, Segrest 3, Smith 2, Fairley); Alexandria 7 (Davis, Snow 2, Downie, Henderson 2, Forrest). Fouled out: Morgan, Langdale, Fairley, Davis. Total fouls: Glencoe 29, Alexandria 23. Officials: Childs, Childs, Moore.

Cover photo: Alexandria coach Will Ginn (L) and Glencoe’s Ryan Chambless meet at midcoast after Tuesday night’s overtime thriller.

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