E.A. Sports Today

48 and holding

In battle of two teams that won the past three Class 4A state titles, Anniston’s season-long defensive threshold holds against stiff test at Jacksonville.

Thursday scoreboard

Anniston 46, Jacksonville 44
Winterboro 58, Faith Christian 54
Coosa Christian 58, Jax Christian 53
Cleburne County 63, Cherokee County 53
Piedmont 63, Southeastern 54
Talladega 72, Central-Clay 71
Saks 69, Donoho 65, 2OT
Champions Christmas Classic
Alexandria 64, Moody 52
Springville 69, Glencoe 66
Jacksonville 70, Saks 32
Jax Christian 49, Coosa Christian 44
Piedmont 42, Cedar Bluff 36
Sardis 64, White Plains 47

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Anniston’s boys stand 12 games into their season, and arguably their most impressive team statistic stands after one of its stiffest tests.

The Bulldogs still haven’t given up more than 48 points in a game.

Anniston held Jacksonville to 34 percent shooting, including 5-for-18 behind the 3-point line, and fought off the Golden Eagles’ last-gasp possession to win 46-44 on Thursday.

The 2021 Class 4A state champion took this round from the team that won the Class 4A title in 2022 and 2023.

“It’s a big win for us, considering they’ve been rolling,” Anniston coach Torry Brown said. “They’ve been rolling pretty good, and considering they’ve beat us the last couple of years.

“It was good to come in here and get a win.”

Cover photo: Anniston’s Devin Coleman goes up for two against Jacksonville on Thursday at Jacksonville. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Fifth-ranked Anniston improved to 9-3, and fourth-ranked Jacksonville fell to 8-4.

Delroy Francis led the Bulldogs with 15 points, including two 3-pointers, and Devin Coleman hit two 3-pointers en route to 10 points. 

Jacksonville got three 3-pointers and 16 points from Aaron Nixon and 12 points (one three) from Jaquan Ervin, but Anniston focused its defense on Jacksonville’s Devin Barksdale. The Bulldogs played a 1-2-2 zone, guarding him beyond the 3-point line, then crowded the lane when he penetrated.

Coming off of a 26-point eruption against Alexandria, Barksdale scored five points against Anniston. After hitting six 3-pointers against Alexandria, he hit one fourth-quarter three against Anniston.

That three cut Anniston’s lead to 45-43 with 1:51 to play, and Damonte Sinclair earned his way to the free-throw line at 1:04 with a steal and drive.

Sinclair hit the first of two free throws to bring Jacksonville within 45-44.

Jacksonville had to foul three times to get Anniston in the bonus, then Jayden Lewis hit the first of two free throws to make it 46-44 with 29 seconds left.

Jacksonville dribbled to its offensive end and called timeout at 22 seconds. After the Golden Eagles’ set produced no good looks, second-year Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan called timeout at 7.7 seconds.

“We drew something up, trying to get a look,” Buzan said. “We thought we could get Aaron open right there, or maybe Devin or Jaquan. We didn’t get a great look at the three, but we got a pretty good look at the putback.”

Nixon missed a contested three from the right corner, and Jacksonville attempted three putbacks.

Brown showed flexibility in defending the final possession.

“They got it underneath, and we normally are a zone team underneath, so I asked the kids, what do you want to do?” Brown said. “Do you want to guard them, or do you want to run our zone.

“They said wanted to guard them, we just went ‘red’ and tried to switch everything.”

So went a dramatic ending for a game that Anniston dominated for a quarter and a half. The Bulldogs got out to a 22-5 lead before Jacksonville closed to within 24-16 at halftime.

Jacksonville whittled the lead down until Ervin’s drive gave Jacksonville a 37-36 lead at 7:21 of the fourth quarter. It marked Jacksonville’s first lead since 2-0, on a Barksdale layup.

Anniston quickly reclaimed the lead and held on for the dramatic finish. The victory came two weeks prior to the Calhoun County Tournament seeding meeting.

“This is big win, coming off of Alexandria,” Francis said. “We beat them and beat Jacksonville, and can be the number two seed in the county.”

Jacksonville’s Devin Barksdale goes to the hoop for two early in Anniston’s 46-44 victory Thursday at Jacksonville. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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