E.A. Sports Today

One step closer

Jacksonville reaches regional semis while playing their best ball of the season; await winner of White Plains-Etowah for trip back the Final Four

Jacksonville’s John Broom throws down two of his game-high 24 points in Saturday’s Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinal against Hanceville. On the cover, Cam Johnson shows he’s just as effective in close as he was behind the 3-point arc. (Photos by Greg Warren)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Tres Buzan sat the head table for the post-game interview, looked down the line of players who joined him and realized something pretty quickly.

He was the only one at the table without a ring.

The big three who were with him – John Broom and twins Cam and Caden Johnson – got their bling last year and are itching for another. Saturday morning they moved their coach a step closer to joining the club when they led Jacksonville to a dominating 90-60 win over Hanceville in the Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinals at Jacksonville State.

The defending state champion Golden Eagles (26-6) now play Etowah Wednesday for a return trip to the Final Four.

Devin Barksdale puts up a shot over the defense of Hanceville’s Carson Garrett. (Photo by Greg Warren)

Broom and Caden Johnson led Jacksonville with 24 points apiece. It was Cam, however, who got them off to a fast start. He hit his first four 3s in his second favorite place in town to shoot against a rare Hanceville zone the Bulldogs pulled out in hopes of catching Jacksonville off-guard. 

Off guards, point guards, all the guards did well for the Golden Eagles.

“I think we are playing our best ball right now at the right time of the year,” Buzan said. “Everybody at this table has a ring but me. They know how to do it. I just have to not screw them up too bad and try to help them out when I can.”

Who would argue? Their eight wins since losing to Ramsay have been by an average of 35-plus.

Actually, Cam couldn’t wait to get back to Pete Mathews Coliseum to prove himself as a shooter after going 1-for-11 from behind the arc in the Calhoun County Tournament championship game against the Oxford zone the last time he played here. He didn’t look like he could miss early against the Bulldogs (25-8), hitting four 3s in the first quarter – each one deeper than the next.

What it did for the Golden Eagles was keep them out front while waiting for their defense to catch up.

He is now 15-of-36 from 3-point range in four games played in this building this season.

“It motivated me a lot,” Cam said of the county final. “Every day I’m waiting for this day. I wanted to be out there fast to readjust my shots. I missed a lot of shots in that game, so I wanted to get back in the gym, hit a lot of shots, show myself I could shoot in the gym – any gym – and have confidence.”

His three favorite gyms to shoot in town – in order – are the Jacksonville High School gym, Pete Mathews Coliseum and the Jacksonville Rec Center gym where he grew up playing the game. He hit six 3s in his first county tournament game in the Pete this year, then hit his last three in a row after slow start in the semifinals.

The county finals was just an anomaly.

“I wouldn’t say I did anything different (Saturday), I just had confidence in myself and kept shooting the ball,” he said. “Here, I don’t know how deep I’m shooting because it’s two lines and at the high school it’s just one so I get kind of confused so I just shoot where I’m at. But it feels good to shoot here, it really does, so I like it a lot.”

His brother and Broom both had elements of his game that were just as impressive.

Caden had eight rebounds, four on the offensive glass – all in the second half and all of which he converted into baskets or free throws.

“Whet Caden does a really good job of and people don’t give him enough credit for,” Buzan explained, “everybody knows how tall he is and how long he is and he’s got great height – those are just God’s gifts to him – but he’s a physical player. You might think he’s out of place down in the paint because he’s more of a guard, but he’s super comfortable down there. We like putting him around the rim and if you don’t get a big body on him and get him boxed out he’ll make you pay for it.”

Broom, meanwhile, had seven steals. He had three in a two-minute stretch in the third quarter that were finished off by produced dunks for himself and Cam and a layup by Caden to push the lead to 65-40.

“It’s not really a gamble, it’s kind of like you read it like a DB would,” Broom said.

“John’s smart; he has a high IQ,” Buzan said. “What he’s great at is help defense, he’s great in the gap. When he gets in that gap and you’re loose with the ball he’s going to make you pay for it. I think that’s what he did today. Some guys were trying to drive it and John just timed it up well. If you’re not a really tight ballhandler, he’s usually going to get it more than not.”


HANCEVILLE (25-8) – Will Calvert 7-14 1-2 18, Zach Campbell 2-10 0-0 5, Carson Garrett 2-1 1-2 5, Braxton Broad 1-2 0-0 2, Brayden Harris 8-20 2-2 22, Jake Cornelius 0-0 0-0 0, J.T. Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Douglas 0-0 0-0 0, A.J. Wood 1-2 0-0 3, Peyton Twilley 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Jones 1-2 0-0 2, Konnor Helms 0-3 0-0 0, Logan Quick 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 23-64 4-6 60.
JACKSONVILLE (26-6) – Cam Johnson 7-11 0-0 19, Caden Johnson 9-13 6-9 24, Devin Barksdale 2-9 8-8 13, John Broom 9-17 5-6 24, Ethan Duke 0-3 0-0 0, Jaquan Ervin 1-3 0-0 2, Imoree Young 0-0 0-0 0, Monte Sinclair 1-2 0-0 2, Dee Prothro 2-3 0-1 4, Kydric Fisher 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 31-61 21-26 90.
Hanceville       16        11        19        14 –     60
Jacksonville    22        23        23        22 –     90
3-point goals: Hanceville 10-25 (Calvert 3-4, Campbell 1-2, Garrett 0-1, Broad 0-1, Harris 4-10, Wood 1-2, Helms 0-1, Quick 1-4); Jacksonville 7-20 (Cm. Johnson 5-8, Cd. Johnson 0-2, Barksdale 1-4, Broom 1-4, Ervin 0-1, Sinclair 0-1). Total fouls: Hanceville 17, Jacksonville 9. Officials: Burks, Putnam, Horn.

Jacksonville’s Caden Johnson (3) scoops up a loose ball from Hanceville’s Will Calvert and heads to the basket with Carson Garrett in pursuit. (Photo by Greg Warren)

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