E.A. Sports Today

‘An honor’

Jacksonville’s Broom puts up MVP performance after pregame show of respect from White Plains’ Randall, and Golden Eagles roll to Area 10 title

White Plains coach Chris Randall shouts instructions during Saturday’s Class 4A, Area 10 championship game at Jacksonville. Jacksonville won 69-48. Both teams go on to the subregional round of the AHSAA playoffs. (Photo by Greg Warren)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Pregame introductions are ceremonial and routine … until they’re not.

As Jacksonville’s John Broom stuck out his hand before Saturday’s Class 4A, Area 10 final, White Plains coach Chris Randall stopped the South Alabama signee. Randall spoke from the heart, patted Broom on the chest and sent him on his way back to Jacksonville’s bench.

Not that Broom needed an opposing coach’s show of respect to mount a 25-point, most-valuable-player performance in Jacksonville’s 69-48 victory.

As John Broom performances go, well, it’s hard for John Broom to top John Broom.

And no, the affable senior who helped Jacksonville win its first state championship in boys’ basketball a year ago and hopes to leave with two doesn’t often get such love from an opposing coach.

“That was the first time,” Broom said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’”

So, what was said?

“He basically just stopped me and said it was a pleasure for him, coaching against me, and I’m a great player,” Broom said. “He’s a really great coach. It was an honor for him to say that.”

Broom did his level best not to let Randall down Saturday, hitting nine of 13 shots and fetching nine rebounds and four steals as Jacksonville stayed on schedule. The victory means the Golden Eagles will play host to their subregional game against Handley on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

White Plains will play at Anniston same day and time.

Jacksonville senior John Broom dunks in the second half of Saturday’s Class 4A, Area 10 championship at Jacksonville. (Photo by Greg Warren)

Broom is about to play his last game in Van Deerman Gymnasium on Tuesday. If Jacksonville wins, he’ll go just up the road and play the Northeast Regional in Pete Mathews Coliseum.

The time for acknowledgements is now, and Randall is known to be rather thoughtful. Thoughts that inspire such moments from him often transcend basketball.

“I told John it’s been fun watching him play and grow up,” the veteran White Plains coach said. “I just wished him the best at South Alabama and told him I’ll be keeping up with him.

“He’s one of the best players to come through this county in a long time, and watching his progression, I love the game. John Broom, his momma raised him right, and he’s a class act. He’s a credit to his last name and school.”

As for what transpired after above-and-beyond pleasantries, Broom looked the part. He and twins Cam and Caden Johnson have made dunks normal at Jacksonville for three years, and he dunked at the end of the break in the second half Saturday.

He hit two of his signature golden arches from behind the 3-point line, complete with his textbook left-handed release and next-level backspin.

“Everybody knows what John is capable of, and he’s playing at a really high level,” Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan said. “Some of the other guys, too. I think our first five are all playing rally well.”

Caden Johnson wasn’t far behind Broom with 23 points. Senior center Ethan Duke grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

“Ethan Duke had a tremendous game for us,” Buzan said. “He wasn’t all-area tonight, but he might’ve had one of the most important games.”

The question going into the game was, would it look more like Jacksonville’s 69-39 rout of White Plains on Nov. 29 or 55-45 pace switch through which the Golden Eagles labored Dec. 16?

Jacksonville’s 19-4 run to start the game gave a hint.

The Golden Eagles’ 39-18 lead at halftime turned the hint into a declaration.

White Plains’ opened the third quarter with its best stretch … Josh Wheeler’s pullup jumper, followed by a Luke Bussey 3-pointer and a Wheeler steal and dunk to close the game to 39-25.

After Duke’s lone bucket of the game made it 41-25, White Plains had three more golden chances to close the game further. All resulted in missed layups, including two open fastbreak chances.

One of Calhoun County’s most fundamental teams under Randall, White Plains doesn’t often miss layups. Rushed layups made it clear who won the pace game in the third meeting between these teams this season. 

“You’ve got long, athletic guys trying to block your shot, and it affects you,” Randall said. “You shoot it quicker than you normally would. Instead of taking your time to concentrate, you’re thinking about not getting it blocked instead of making it.

“The next thing you know, you miss it.”

Saturday’s game looked like an extension of Jacksonville since a late-season blowout loss to Ramsay at home. Golden Eagle victories since then include a 38-point avenging of Oxford, which beat them in the county title game. 

Jacksonville also put up a 40-point quarter on Cleburne County in Thursday’s area semifinals.

“Since the Ramsay game, we’re playing at a higher level, and tonight was true to form,” Buzan said.  

White Plains, which beat Cherokee County on Thursday to advance, is 9-3 since playing a holiday tournament in Florida. The Wildcats split two regular-season games with Anniston, which beat Handley to win the 4A, Area 8 title Friday.

“They’re much improved,” Randall said. “I watched them play last night. They’re really good. The young post (Hezekiah Harris) has come a long way. He’s good.

“He’s going to be a handful. It’ll be a tough matchup for us.”

WHITE PLAINS – Luke Bussey 5 1-2 15, Coleman Ray 3 0-0 8, Cameron Almon 2 0-0 5, Dylan Barksdale 2 0-0 4, Z.J. Rosario 2 0-0 4, Paul Laube 2 0-0 4, Josh Wheeler 2 0-0 4, Carter Johnson 1 0-0 2, Daniel Williams 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 1-2 48.

JACKSONVILLE – John Broom 9 5-5 25, Caden Johnson 10 2-4 23, Ethan Duke 1 4-8 6, Devin Barksdale 2 0-0 6, Cam Johnson 2 1-3 5, Dee Prothro 1 0-2 2, DaMonte Sinclair 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 12-22 69.

White Plains 121119 – 48
Jacksonville19201218 – 69

3-point goals: White Plains 7 (Bussey 4, Ray 2, Almon), Jacksonville 5 (Broom 2, Barksdale 2, Caden Johnson 1). Total fouls: White Plains 16, Jacksonville 8. Fouled out: Wheeler. Technical fouls: none.

The Class 4A, Area 10 all-tournament team (from left): Most valuable player John Broom, of Jacksonville; Caden Johnson, Devin Barksdale, Cam Johnson; White Plains’ Z.J. Rozario, Josh Wheeler and Luke Bussey. Not pictured are Cherokee County’s Jack Amos and Malachi Horton and Cleburne County’s Jacob Cavender. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Cover photo: Jacksonville’s John Broom goes up for two against White Plains in Saturday’s Class 4A, Area 10 final at Jacksonville. (Photo by Greg Warren)

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