E.A. Sports Today

Long lays it out

Jacksonville boys get a surprise visitor with a poignant message after they suffer worst loss of season to 5A No. 1 Ramsay; J’ville girls also fall hard

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – It was about 15 minutes after the teams had left the floor and the gym was basically empty. Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan was sitting in a chair behind his desk, his players still in the dressing room.

Buzan had long since said his piece to the players, but there was no sign of anyone budging after the coach had left the room.

It wasn’t a good night for the home team, with top-ranked 5A Ramsay handing the 4A No. 4 Golden Eagles their most lopsided loss of the season, 60-39.

On the surface, there was nothing unusual about the scene. Buzan usually talks to his team then ducks into his office, leaving the players to their own devices. But this time just felt different.

Was there a players-only meeting underway behind closed doors after a distasteful loss with the biggest games on the year on the horizon? Sort of.

Buzan passed a familiar face on his way out of the locker room. Golden Eagles grad and MLB veteran Shed Long was on his way in and he had a message for the troops.

“He gave us a talk about pride, just be stronger out there,” senior forward Caden Johnson said.

“Really, he told us what our coaches tell us, that’s really all it is, give more fight,” guard Devin Barksdale added.

Buzan didn’t know Long was going to address his team when they passed each other and embraced, but he was glad he did, if only to have the players hear a different voice for the message he had been trying to deliver all season.

For their part, the players said Long’s visit and his message were a positive experience even in the throes of their lowest point total of the season.

“He gave us a good message,” senior captain and South Alabama signee John Broom said. “He basically talked to us about giving more effort, more fight in the game. He basically said we didn’t really give any fight today and I agree with him. Even the coaches said that.

“We thought it was a good thing (he visited) because he’s a professional athlete, so he knows what it takes and what it takes to be successful, so we all took our ears in and just listened to him.”

As for the game, the teams were locked in a tight and somewhat contentious battle in the first half with the Rams feeling lucky to have a 29-26 lead after their closest half in recent games.

The second half, though, was all Ramsey with the Rams outscoring the Golden Eagles 31-13. Both coaches said the key was their adjustments and approach to defense after halftime. Ramsay’s worked, Jacksonville’s didn’t.

The Rams got corner 3s from four different players (Jayden Williams, Zedrick Powell, Jalen Jones and Kerrington Kiel) against Jacksonville’s zone to open the half and continued to pull away for their 11th win in a row.

“They played a really good second half and we just kind of fell apart there at the end and didn’t really rise to the occasion,” Buzan said. “The easiest way to say it is we came out in the second half and I think the first four or five possessions we missed our defensive assignment and that led to some easy scores and got them off and going and from that moment on we played from behind. It was our own fault to start the second half. You’ve got to play four quarters of good basketball if we’re going to beat good team.”

The weekly statewide rankings may have indicated the game was battle of two top five teams in their respective classifications, but Ramsay coach Denton Johnson said it was better than that.

“I think it was a 1 against 1,” he said. “I think they’re hands down the best team in 4A. We played Haleyville … we played Anniston and neither one of those teams can beat Jacksonville. They’re definitely going to be in there. It’s never given, but I like Jacksonville, for sure, to win 4A.”

If the Golden Eagles take Long’s message to heart, that very well happen.

Jalen Jones 9-16 7-9 27, Kerrington Kiel 7-13 1-5 17, Zedrick Powell 2-5 0-0 5, Jayden Williams 2-5 0-0 5, Isaiah Jackson 1-3 0-0 2, Jaquille Malone 1-5 0-0 2, Cameron Ruffin 1-1 0-0 2, Quinton Reese 0-3 0-0 0, Jeremiah Ford 0-1 0-0 0, Sabian Swain 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 8-14 60.
JACKSONVILLE – John Broom 4-13 1-1 11, Caden Johnson 3-5 3-4 9, Devin Barksdale 3-11 0-0 8, Dee Prothro 1-2 2-4 4, Ethan Duke 2-4 0-0 4, Cam Johnson 1-5 0-0 2, Damonte Sinclair 0-0 1-2 1, Jaquan Ervin 0-2 0-0 0, Kydric Fisher 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 14-44 7-11 39.
Ramsay           18        11        18        13 –     60
Jacksonville   12        14        9          4 –       39
3-point goals: Ramsay 6-17 (Williams 1-2, Jones 2-4, Kiel 2-4, Powell 1-3, Jackson 0-1, Malone 0-2); Jacksonville 4-22 (Broom 2-7, Cd. Johnson 0-2, Barksdale 2-7, Cm. Johnson 0-4, Fisher 0-2). Rebounds: Ramsay 31 (Powell 5, Kiel 5, Williams 9); Jacksonville 31 (Broom 9, Prothro 5). Technical fouls: Reese, Prothro. Total fouls: Ramsay 15, Jacksonville 14. Officials: Oden, Childs, Walker.

 Nyla Gooden 3-5 3-4 9, Diana Lewis 3-3 2-4 8, Kennedi Wagner 3-8 0-0 8, Tenae Jemison 3-7 1-2 7, Anaya Sterling 2-5 0-0 5, Nayla Wesley 2-4 0-0 4, Meagan Barnes 1-1 1-2 3, Derrica Allen 1-6 0-2 2, Jarae Harris 1-2 0-0 2, Breonna Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Kayden May 1-1 0-0 2, Keleiloa Thomas 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 7-14 52.
JACKSONVILLE – Ontarriah Braxton 3-4 0-3 6, Ashley Grant 1-4 3-5 5, Dee Prothro 2-4 0-1 4, Alexis Phillips 1-1 0-1 2, Halaina Lozano 1-5 0-0 2, Emerson Weaver 1-1 0-0 2, Neveah Nicholson 1-2 0-0 2, Mya Swain 0-3 0-0 0, Olivia Rowan 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Sanders 0-0 0-0, Camryn Stone 0-0 0-0 0, Jaci Taylor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 10-25 3-10 23.
Ramsay          23        13        7          9 –       52
Jacksonville   5          4         8          6 –       23
3-point goals: Ramsay 3-11 (Gooden 0-1, Wagner 2-5, Sterling 1-3, Allen 0-1, Thomas 0-1); Jacksonville 0-8 (Grant 0-2, Lozano 0-3, Nicholson 0-1, Swain 0-2). Rebounds: Ramsay 42 (Jemison 7, Wesley 7); Jacksonville 13 (Phillips 3). Total fouls: Ramsay 17 Jacksonville 26. Officials: Dupree, Richardson, Whiteside.

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