E.A. Sports Today

Cold dish

Revenge is a dish best served cold and Jacksonville served it to Oxford, crushing the team that beat them in the last two Calhoun County Tournament finals

Jacksonville’s Devin Barksdale looks to drive around Oxford’s Elijah Malone (25) during Friday night’s rematch of the Calhoun County Tournament finals. On the cover, Jacksonville’s Caden Johnson appears to get a hand on Jaylen Alexander’s shot in traffic with John Broom (5) and Ethan Duke (21). (Photos by Mike Lett/Lett’s Focus Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – The outcome of the last two county tournament finals have been eating at the Jacksonville basketball team for the past two years. The team with the best collection of talent in town was expected to win the tournament both years hands down only to get stopped in the finals by Oxford both times.

The Golden Eagles got their revenge Friday night.

Playing with a renewed vigor inspired by a post-game talk from one of their own and unlike the way they played in either of the two county finals, the Golden Eagles crushed Oxford on its home floor 82-44 in the final regular-season game of the season.

The Yellow Jackets beat Jacksonville in each of the last two county finals, 43-40 two weeks ago and 64-62 in 2022. Jacksonville was the No. 1 seed both years.

“The county final, we felt like we missed an opportunity to show what we’re about and I felt like a lot of the guys had it on their mind and tonight it just showed who we really are,” Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan said. “That was a good showing and that’s what we want to do.

“We’re playing well right now. It sucks that we didn’t play like that in the county, but it sure is good to play like that before the playoff starts … They played four quarters of really good basketball and I think it showed tonight.”

Since a post-game visit by Jacksonville grad and MLB veteran Shed Long, and later by former Samford player Chris Weaver who is helping the program, after a lethargic 21-point loss to 5A No. 1 Ramsay, the Golden Eagles have crushed three high-quality opponents by 26, 21 and 38 points. The first one in the run was against a No. 1 team in the state.

“Since the Ramsay game when we didn’t play our best and we didn’t have the effort and the heart that we needed to play (with), we’ve had that mentality we’re just going to come in every day and work our butts off,” Buzan said. “When we get on this floor we’re going to make it a fight and we’re not going to go down easy any more. We’re going to continue to make it a fight every night.”

Oxford coach Joel Van Meter agreed the Golden Eagles took the fight to his team. He said they looked “way more confident” against the Jackets’ zone than they did in the county final and attacked some different areas.

“I didn’t think we had a whole lot of fight,” Van Meter said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them, because I think their play took fight away from us. They did a great job of forcing the tempo the way they wanted it and they made shots. I didn’t think we did a great job of guarding them, but they made them, so you have to give them all the credit.

“I wasn’t expecting 43-40, trust me. I read everything. I knew what happened (with) Shed Long coming into their locker room, I knew that gave them a spark and they turned around and beat (Plainview) pretty good. They beat Alexandria. And I knew we beat them the last two years in the county championship and they had a lot of blood on their tongue. I was just disappointed we didn’t have more fight and I didn’t think we had any fight.”

The loss to Ramsay wounded the Golden Eagles’ pride, but the pain was nothing like the two higher-stake losses to Oxford in the county finals.

“It felt good to come in and just absolutely run them out of the gym, especially on their home floor,” said senior post Ethan Duke, the Golden Eagles’ fifth starter. “We owed them that one, especially two years, three years plus.

“It goes all the way back to last year, losing the county finals last year. Every day at practice that’s what we talk about, not backing down. We had this marked on our calendars ever since that night.”

The game was tied at 18 early in the second quarter, but after the Golden Eagles got settled in, Buzan said, “we did what we wanted” pulling away with an 18-6 run the rest of the half. 

After an extended halftime due to an injury to one of the game officials late in the second quarter, they pulled away with a 32-12 third quarter fueled by five 3-pointers – three by John Broom. They opened the third quarter with a 16-2 run and the two they gave up came on a pair of technical foul shots for hanging on the rim.

Buzan credited the third-quarter outburst to being aggressive and “staying true to who we are.” During their three game rampage, the Golden Eagles have scored 226 points, given up 143, shot 56 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point range and had a 28-48 turnover-takeaway ratio. In the Ramsay game they shot 31 percent from the floor, went 4-for-22 from the arc, and had 22 turnovers.

“All parts of our game were clicking,” Buzan said. “Defensively we were locked in, offensively we were playing unselfishly. All those things and playing with a lot of effort and a lot of heart, that makes a big difference.”

The Golden Eagles shot 64 percent from the field in the game and were 15-of-22 from 3-point range. Broom hit six 3s (five in the second half) and had a team-high 24 points. He also had 10 rebounds and six assists. Devin Barksdale hit four 3s (all in the first half) and had 16 points and seven assists. Cam Johnson had 12 points.

Jaylen Alexander led Oxford with 24 points, but no one else scored in double figures for the Jackets.

JACKSONVILLE – John Broom 9-13 0-0 24, Devin Barksdale 6-8 0-0 16, Cam Johnson 5-6 0-0 12, Caden Johnson 3-9 1-4 7, Ethan Duke 3-5 0-1 6, Kydric Fisher 2-3 0-0 6, Dee Prothro 2-3 0-2 4, Damonte Sinclair 2-2 0-0 4, Jaquan Ervin 1-2 0-0 3, Imoree Young 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-51 1-7 82.
OXFORD – Jaylen Alexander 9-13 6-7 24, Dashaun Calloway 4-6 0-0 8, Caleb Sanders 1-2 0-0 3, T.J. Allen 1-3 0-0 3, Marcus Perry 0-3 2-2 2, Chase Truitt 1-2 0-0 2, Cristian Gibson 1-2 0-0 2, Jayden Lewis 0-2 0-0 0, Jordan Kelley 0-0 0-0 0, Elijah Malone 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 17-35 8-9 44.

Jacksonville16203214 –82
Oxford141012 8 –44

3-point goals: Jacksonville 15-22 (Broom 6-8, Barksdale 4-6, Cm. Johnson 2-2, Cd. Johnson 0-1, Fisher 2-3, Ervin 1-2); Oxford 2-9 (Alexander 0-1, Sanders 1-1, Allen 1-3, Perry 0-1, Gibson 0-1, Lewis 0-1, Malone 0-1). Rebounds: Jacksonville 32 (Broom 10, Prothro 6); Oxford 11 (Lewis 3). Technical fouls: Cm. Johnson. Total fouls: Jacksonville 11, Oxford 9. Officials: Calkins/Hanson, Taylor, Railey.

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