E.A. Sports Today

Look who’s No. 1

Jacksonville, Oxford girls pull down top seeds in Calhoun County Basketball Tournament as expected; brackets inside

Calhoun County Boys Basketball Tournament bracket.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Tres Buzan and Melissa Bennett were the most comfortable people in the rooms that decided their respective Calhoun County Basketball Tournament brackets.

While everyone else was awaiting the scramble that came with the rest of the field, Buzan and Bennett were sitting pretty anticipating the No. 1 seed they easily were granted.

Buzan’s defending state champion Jacksonville boys (13-4) were installed as the No. 1 seed in their tournament, while Bennett’s 2022 state runner-up Oxford girls (10-8) were installed as the top seed in their tournament.

Both were the No. 1 seed in last year’s tournament.

“I thought we probably would be (the No. 1 seed), but you’ve still got to come and see,” Buzan said. “Numbers are just numbers, they don’t mean anything until you play. I think it means a lot to our guys. It’s an honor to be recognized by the coaches for the effort you put in, but it doesn’t mean anything until you hit the hardwood. Hopefully, we’ll go play to the expectations.”

This year’s county tournament begins Jan. 13 at Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum. After taking Saturday off to make way for the arena’s regular tenant, the tournament resumes Jan. 16 with a full slate of eight games. The championship games are set for Jan. 20.

If Jacksonville’s boys were established as the No. 1 based on their reputation for having the strongest collection of players in the county, Oxford (6-12) landed as the No. 2 boys team based on its reputation and strength of schedule. One of its wins is against 7A power Blount, which beat a Baker team that has perhaps the best player in the state.

“I love the fact that we’re the 2,” Oxford coach Joel VanMeter said. “I appreciate the fact that our history in the tournament, obviously, has something to do with it, who we play has something to do with it.

“I don’t know enough about everybody else. We played one (county) team, White Plains. I’ve seen Anniston on film and that’s probably the only other team I’ve seen on film, so I’m kind of blind, to be honest with you, but I appreciate the fact that we’re No. 2.”

Alexandria assistant coach Todd Ginn called trying to compare the Yellow Jackets with the rest of the field “apples and oranges.” The Jackets don’t usually play in-county opponents and fill their schedule with a gauntlet of highly regarded large-school opponents.

“We knew Jacksonville would probably be the unanimous 1 and we thought Oxford probably would be the 2,” Ginn said. “Throw their schedule out and just knowing what we know and knowing their a big school is usually pretty good. Because of (Alexandria’s) Anniston game the other night, things were a lot more simple after that.”

Jacksonville and Oxford were followed among the top four boys by Alexandria and Anniston. Alexandria earned the nod over the Bulldogs based on its head-to-head victory Monday night. It was Anniston’s lowest seed since 2018 and only the third time since East Alabama Sports Today began keeping records in 2015 the Bulldogs have entered the tournament seeded fourth or worse. Alexandria pulled down its highest seed since 2018.

Elsewhere among the boys, Faith Christian, at No. 7, grabbed its highest seed in the EA Sports Today era.

On the girls side, Oxford was followed among the top four seeds by Anniston, Ohatchee, Piedmont. For Ohatchee, seeded fourth the last two years, it’s the Lady Indians’ highest seed since 2015. JCA, at No. 8, also grabbed its highest seed since 2015.

“Our body of work we thought was pretty strong, definitely our strength of schedule,” Bennett said. “If we didn’t get voted for the 1, I would have fought for the 1. It’s humbling. It means a lot to the county because that means your peers respect you and what your kids are doing.”

TOURNEY TIDBITS: The finalist for the F&M Shootout once again will be determined by a fan vote on the bank’s Facebook page. The winner takes a mid-court shot for big money during the championship doubleheader … The pre-tournament FCA Tip-Off banquet for participating teams is set for Jan. 11 at the City Meeting Center. This year’s inspirational speakers are former Alabama women’s player Kyla Whitmore and local pastor Anthony Cook.

Cover photo: Wellborn coach Justin Amberson prepares to add his team’s record to the tote board at the start of Wednesday’s Calhoun County Basketball Tournament seeding meeting.

Calhoun County Girls Basketball Tournament bracket

(Records at of 4 p.m. Jan. 4: overall, county)
Jan. 13
No. 11 Jacksonville Christian (11-3, 1-0) vs. No. 14 Wellborn (0-10, 0-7), 6 p.m.
No. 12 Ohatchee (5-9, 2-2) vs. No. 13 Pleasant Valley (3-6, 1-1), 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 16
No. 7 Faith Christian (12-4, 3-1) vs. No. 10 Donoho (9-5, 1-1), 10:30 a.m.
No. 8 Saks (3-4, 1-3) vs. No. 9 Weaver (6-12, 2-5), 1:30 p.m.
No. 6 White Plains (7-9, 4-4) vs. JCA-Wellborn winner, 4:30 p.m.
No. 5 Piedmont (10-2, 3-1) vs. Ohatchee-PV winner, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17
No. 2 Oxford (6-12, 1-0) vs. Faith-Donoho winner, 4:30 p.m.
No. 1 Jacksonville (13-4, 3-0) vs. Saks-Weaver winner, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 18
No. 3 Alexandria (9-6, 3-0) vs. White Plains/JCA/Wellborn, 4:30 p.m.
No. 4 Anniston (10-6, 2-2) vs. Piedmont/Ohatchee/PV, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19
2/3 Semifinals, 4:30 p.m.
1/4 Semifinals, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20
Championship game, 8 p.m.

Jan. 13
No. 6 Jacksonville (5-10, 3-2) vs. No. 11 Faith Christian (2-9, 0-2), 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 16
No. 7 Pleasant Valley (7-3, 1-1) vs. No. 10 Weaver (2-13, 2-6), 9 a.m.
No. 8 Jacksonville Christian (9-5, 2-0) vs. No. 9 White Plains (5-5, 4-4), noon
No. 4 Piedmont (9-5, 4-1) vs. No. 13 Wellborn (0-9, 0-2), 3 p.m.
No. 5 Alexandria (7-9, 2-2) vs. No. 12 Saks (1-5, 1-3), 6 p.m.
Jan. 17
No. 2 Anniston (9-8, 3-0) vs. PV-Weaver winner, 3 p.m.
No. 1 Oxford (10-8, 1-0) vs. JCA-White Plains winner, 6 p.m.
Jan. 18
No. 3 Ohatchee (14-3, 4-1) vs. Jacksonville-Faith winner, 3 p.m.
Piedmont-Wellborn winner vs. Alexandria-Saks winner, 6 p.m.
Jan. 19
2/3 Semifinals, 3 p.m.
1 Semifinals, 6 p.m.
Jan. 20
Championship game, 6 p.m.

Boys seeding history

Faith Christian111211121414897
Jax Christian915131410891211
Pleasant Valley121115131310101113
White Plains235853376
Sacred Heart311125

Girls seeding history

Faith Christian121315151211111111
Jax Christian8101214111013108
Pleasant Valley6427881287
White Plains10125967839
Sacred Heart1115131022

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