E.A. Sports Today

Raiders run out

Boys bracket: PV coach Hood reaches back to a good ol’ play he learned long ago and it sealed the win; JCA routs Wellborn

Friday’s games
Jacksonville Christian , Wellborn 31
Pleasant Valley 67, Ohatchee 63

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Way back in the Christmas tournament that turned its season around, Pleasant Valley coach Brad Hood called for a deep baseball pass late in a game he learned from a mentor a long time ago and used with regularity as the PV girls coach.

The Raiders didn’t connect on it that day, but Hood and the shooter that day, Hunter Sparks, both were convinced if they ran it again someday down the road it would work.

Some day came Friday late in the fourth quarter of their opening-round game in the Calhoun County Basketball Tournament, and this time it did work. Jaden Sparks threw the baseball pass to his brother, Hunter corralled it just past midcourt and made the layup to basically ice the Raiders’ 67-63 win over Ohatchee.

“I drew that thing up in a tournament over Christmas,” Hood explained. “Most teams on our schedule don’t run man-to-man, full court especially, it’s all zone press. A team jumped on us man from up there on the mountain. We got an opportunity to run that play to ice the game and they didn’t execute it and they were mad.

“I said you’ll be ready next time, and we waited for that opportunity. We saw they were going aggressive man and we ran our big guy up. The read is if that big guy goes with him, that man in the middle, just throw it out there and let him go get it. They executed, I was proud of them. That was it, that was the game.

“That used to be Carmyn (Sparks) running up and Emma (Hood) running back. Emma take one step forward and they go with her, she’s gone. And if they didn’t go with Carmyn, we just threw it to her and she’s turn and throw it back. It’s a great play. Shane Sanderson taught that back in the day, when I helped him as a college student.”

The play took the Raiders from a four-point lead to six with 16.4 seconds left. Ohatchee’s Kolby Hester hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to make it a one-possession game, but the Indians fouled Hunter with three-tenths of a second remaining, basically leaving no time for a shot if Hunter missed.

Hunter made the first free throw to set the margin and effectively end the game.

The Raiders were playing their fourth game in five days and the victory extended their winning streak to four games.

The game was back and forth. The Raiders built several double-digits leads – they led by 14 after three quarters – but every time the Indians would come back. If Ohatchee had been able to connect on, say, just half of the all the shots it missed around the goal, it would have been a different story.

“I knew they weren’t going to go away easily,” Hunter Sparks said. “I knew if we were going to be able to not turn it over we were going to be good. I was never really scared they were going to end up taking the lead from us. I was confident.”

“We were resilient to be so young and inexperienced,” Hood said. “Hat’s off to Ohatchee. Those kids don’t quit and that’s what I preach to my kids – we cannot let up. Ohatchee did what they do and those kids have a lot of heart.”

The Indians cut it to three with 2:44 to play, then Kolby Battles hit two buckets 30 seconds apart and Hunter Sparks hit two free throws to make it 64-55 with 55 seconds left. The Indians came back with a 3 by Kelby Crook and a 2 by Jake Roberts to make the margin four before the PV run out.

The Indians should have figured something was up because Jaden Sparks threw in the inbounds pass where usually Kyle Smith runs that play. 

“Jaden was screaming my name to come up and the only one back was Kolby and his man and the coaches were screaming for Kolby to go up, so everybody’s forcing up and I’m pump faking up,” Hunter Sparks said. “I felt my dude grab me like he was trying to stay with me. I kind of ripped out and started running and I knew as soon as Jaden threw it, it was going to hit me straight in the chest.

“I almost lost it at the end. They kind of grabbed on, but then I pump faked it outside right on the rim and I said I’ve got this … You always want to be the guy who seals it for you.”

Jesse Gannaway led PV with 24 points, with four 3-pointers and 14 points coming in the third quarter. Smith had 18 with four 3s, Hunter Sparks had 15 and Battles 10. Jake Roberts led Ohatchee with 17 points.

The Raiders will play Piedmont in the next round Monday at 7:30 p.m.

PLEASANT VALLEY – Jaden Sparks 0 0-1 0, Jesse Gannaway 8 2-4 22, Hunter Sparks 6 5-8 17, Jayden Veazey 0 0-0 0, Bryce Freeman 0 0-0 0, Kolby Battles 5 0-0 10, Braxton Williams 0 0-0 0, Kyle Smith 6 2-2 18. Totals 25 9-15 67. 
OHATCHEE – Eli Teem 3 0-0 8, Jake Roberts 7 3-3 17, Jesse Baswell 1 0-0 2, Colby Hester 4 3-7 12, Jake Roberson 3 2-5 8, Ethan Blackburn 0 0-0 0, Brent Jennings 2 1-4 5, Luke Vinson 0 1-2 1, Kelbe Crook 3 3-6 10. Totals 23 13-27 63.
Pleasant Valley  17         18         19          13 –      67
Ohatchee            8          8          14         23 –      63
3-point goals: Pleasant Valley 8 (Gannaway 4, Smith 4); Ohatchee 4 (Teem 2, Hester, Crook). Fouled out: Baswell. Total fouls: Pleasant Valley 20, Ohatchee 17. 

Pleasant Valley leading scorer Jesse Gannaway (2) looks for room to shoot between Ohatchee’s Kelbe Crook (34) and Jake Roberson. On the cover, PV coach Brad Hood draws up a play in the huddle. (Photos by Greg Warren)

JCA 70, WELLBORN 31: Thunder coach Tommy Miller often wonders about his players having some jitters when they get upon the big stage, but he didn’t really worry about it this time because his group of veteran players have been on the JSU Coliseum floor.

The Thunder didn’t have much to worry about on this night. They scored 29 points in the first quarter and cruised to a first-round victory. They led 45-15 at halftime, then outscored the Panthers 19-2 in the third quarter.

“We didn’t have a lot of jitters,” JCA coach Tommy Miller said. “I thought we might coming in, but I do have some seniors who have played here before. Having the game experience, that’s going to be the takeaway.

“I thought we played good, but we’re going to have to play a lot better than that to play with White Plains (4:30 p.m. Monday). I think if we play real hard and we can get on the boards with them, I think we can play them a ball game, but If we don’t, they’ll run us out of here.”

Ethan Fair led three Thunder scorers in double figures with 19 points. Braxton Brown had 13 with three 3-pointers and Tyler Doggrell 10. Brown also had nine rebounds, three assists and four steals. Doggrell had seven rebounds and three assists. 

“Braxton Brown is getting better every game,” Miller said. “His shooting’s coming around. Cameron Moses is making open 3s, that is going to help us down the stretch.”

JACKSONVILLE CHRISTIAN – Ethan Fair 7 3-4 19, Tyler Doggrell 5 0-2 10, Braxton Brown 5 0-0 13, Noah Lee 1 0-0 2, Justin Crocker 2 1-2 4, Jordan Garner 3 2-2 8, Asher McNeal 0 0-0 0, Hunter Brown 3 0-0 7, Cam Moses 2 0-0 6. Totals 28 6-10 70.
WELLBORN – Ryan Wilson 0 0-0 0, Connor Woodard 0 0-0 0, Avery Odom 2 2-2 6, C.J. Hubbard 0 0-0 0, Chris Williams 0 0-0 0, Jaylen Gilbert 0 0-0 0, Immanual Singleton 0 0-0 0, Jackson Long 7 0-0 18.Trey Downs 3 1-2 7. Totals 12 3-4 31.
JCA                  29         16         19          6 –       70
Wellborn           8          7           2          14 –      31
3-point goals: JCA 8 (Fair 2, B. Brown 3, H. Brown, Moses 2); Wellborn 4 (Long 4). Total fouls: JCA 7, Wellborn 10.

JCA’s Ethan Fair (2) lays one up behind the Wellborn defense Friday night. Fair had 19 in the Thunder’s opening-round victory. (Photo by Greg Warren)

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