E.A. Sports Today

County basketball

Day 4 of the 73rd annual Calhoun County basketball tournament is underway at Pete Mathews Coliseum … two quarterfinals and all four semifinals! Click link and refresh for updates:

Pairings, days, times

At Pete Mathews Coliseum

Saturday, Jan. 13
No. 11 Faith Christian 71, No. 14 Jacksonville Christian 58
No. 12 Ohatchee 59, No. 13 Wellborn 31
Monday, Jan. 15
No. 7 Weaver 52, No. 10 Pleasant Valley 35
No. 8 Saks 46, No. 9 Donoho 36
No. 6 Piedmont 56, Faith 49
No. 5 White Plains 66, Ohatchee 32
Wednesday, Jan. 17
No. 2 Anniston 95, Weaver 39
No. 3 Jacksonville 63, Piedmont 58
Thursday, Jan. 17
No. 1 Oxford 80, Saks 38
No. 4 Alexandria 62, White Plains 50
Semifinals: Jacksonville 66, Anniston 41
Semifinals: Oxford 59, Alexandria 53
Friday, Jan. 19
Championship: Jacksonville vs. Oxford, 8 p.m.

Saturday Jan. 13
No. 11 Weaver 53, No. 6 Saks 50
Monday, Jan. 15
No. 10 Ohatchee 44, No, 7 White Plains 35
No. 9 Wellborn 64, No. 8 Jacksonville Christian 36
No. 4 Piedmont 48, No. 13 Pleasant Valley 21
No. 5 Alexandria 56, No. 12 Faith Christian 21
Wednesday, Jan. 17
No. 2 Oxford 69, Ohatchee 21
No. 1 Anniston 75, Wellborn 16
No. 3 Jacksonville 57, Weaver 19
Piedmont 60, Alexandria 25
Thursday, Jan. 18
Semifinals: Oxford 71, Jacksonville 38
Semifinals: Anniston 64, Piedmont 39
Friday, Jan. 19
Championship: Oxford vs. Anniston, 6 p.m.

Game updates

Oxford’s Jaylen Alexander finishes off a dunk against Saks in Calhoun County quarterfinal action Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)


End 1Q: Oxford scores the first 17, leads 35-7. Jaylen Alexander and Dashaun Calloway have 10 points apiece.
Halftime: Oxford leads Saks, 46-20.
End 3Q: Oxford leads Saks, 72-32. Most of Oxford’s starters excited the action at 4:08. Jackets have a semifinal to play tonight.
Final: Oxford beats Saks, 80-38.

OXFORD 80, SAKS 38: Jaylen Alexander scored 26 points, including two dunks, and Dashaun Calloway added 13 as top seed Oxford sailed into today’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal against the Alexandria-White Plains winner.

Oxford’s Dashaun Calloway drives to the hoop against Saks during Thursday’s Calhoun County quarterfinals at Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Gross/For East Alabama Sports Today)

Two quarterfinals and the resulting semifinal will play out today as a result of organizers revising the tournament schedule because of forecast hazardous winter weather that shut the tournament down Tuesday.

The Oxford-Saks fourth quarter played out on a running clock, and Oxford’s starters got plenty of rest from the middle of the third quarter on. Oxford coach Joel Van Meter was prepared to play his starters longer, if necessary.

“We were just trying to win the game, and I thought our guys did a great job of focusing on the task at hand,” he said. “At the end of the day, you don’t get to the one at 7:30 if you don’t win the one at 12.”

Oxford scored the first 17 points and led 35-7 at the end of the first quarter.

“We came out with a good start, getting a lot of stops,” Alexander said. “The second half, we started getting a lot of transitions. They were getting real tired. We could tell.”

Marcus Perry, Jr. added 10 points and Jayden Lewis nine.

Saks got eight points apiece from Anthony Bothwell and Joshua Todd.

“Oxford is a big school.” Saks coach Wes Ginn said. “They have all kinds of athletes. I thought the first quarter was big. We turned it over a few times, and the Alexander kid scored some points and got them a lead.

“Then we settled down the second quarter. I think we outscored them in the second quarter (13-11). We handled the ball and got good looks, good shots and defended well in the second quarter.”

Alexandria’s Quendavion McDowell powers to the basket as White Plains’ Dylan Barksdale (3), Josh Wheeler (11) and Paul Laube defend during their Calhoun County quarterfinal Thursday at Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Gross/For East Alabama Sports Today)


End 1Q: Alexandria leads White Plains 13-11.
Halftime: These two are trading haymakers … White Plains gets Cam Almon’s tip-in at the buzzer, leads 31-29.
End 3Q: Alexandria leads 44-40, was up seven points twice.
Final: Alexandria wins 62-50.

ALEXANDRIA 62, WHITE PLAINS 50: For as long as the Calhoun County tournament has had its current structure, the thought was the fifth seed has an edge on No. 4. The No. 5 gets a game on the big court before playing No. 4, which has a bye to the quarterfinals.

Drake Davis and Quendavion McDowell scored 17 points apiece, and No. 4 Alexandria flipped the script on No. 5 White Plains in Thursday’s quarterfinal.

White Plains’ Josh Wheeler rebounds against Alexandria in their Calhoun County quarterfinal Thursday at Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Gross/For East Alabama Sports Today)

Now, Alexandria has to be ready for a 7:30 p.m. semifinal against top seed Oxford. This because the threat of hazardous winter weather forced postponement of Tuesday’s games and a schedule revision.

“That’s tough, to have to play two games,” Alexandria coach Will Ginn said. “I knew this one was going to be a dogfight … and to turn around and play four hours later is tough.

“I don’t know what we have left in the tank, but I guarantee you these boys are going to put out whatever they’ve got.”

Oxford beat Saks 80-38 earlier Thursday, with the Yellow Jackets’ starters resting much of the second half.

As for the White Plains game, Alexandria started to gain separation when Davis his a 3-pointer to break a 33-33 tie in the third quarter. That started a 7-0 spurt.

“I knew we needed something, and they were dropping back on me,” Davis said. “I knew Q would probably get the rebound because he’s good on the boards. Coach says if we shoot and he gets the rebound, that’s like not even a miss.”

White Plains closed to within 44-42, but Alexandria scored the next six points before Josh Wheeler hit a three to close within 50-45.

McDowell answered, scoring off an inbounds play, drawing the and-one and hitting the free throw to make it 53-45.

“I felt like that gave us a good boost, that energy we needed to pull ahead,” McDowell said.

Wheeler led White Plains with 19 points, including four 3-pointers. He hit three in the second quarter. Carter Johnson added 10 points.

“They were pretty balanced,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “I was proud of how we ended the half. We answered their run and had the lead, and we started the third quarter like we started the game, giving up way too easy of a bucket.”

Oxford’s Shay Montgomery (right) and Ava Thomas pressure Jacksonville’s Alexis Phillips during their Calhoun County semifinal on Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Gross/For East Alabama Sports Today)


End 1Q: Oxford leads Jacksonville 13-1.
Halftime: Oxford leads 25-10. Xai Whitfield with eight points, Bri Wilson with seven, including a three at the end of the half.
End 3Q: Oxford leads 50-29.
Final: Oxford wins, 71-38.

OXFORD 71, JACKSONVILLE 38: Two-time defending champion Oxford is back in the final and looking the part again.

Xai Whitfield scored 19 points and Bri Wilson 13, and the No. 2 seed earned a shot at the winner between top seed Anniston and No. 4 Piedmont on Friday at 6 p.m.

Oxford’s key all season long has been enough help emerging around Whitfield, the senior, Tennessee State signee and lone remaining standout from 2022 Oxford’s state-finalist team.

“Early on, that was our big Achilles’ heel,” Oxford coach Melissa Bennett said. “We didn’t know how to play with Xai. A lot of times, we looked at her to do it all.

“She draws a lot of attention, and other players are starting to step up and realize she’s got to have some help.”

Oxford’s Bri Wilson goes up for two points against Jacksonville during their Calhoun County semifinal Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Gross/For East Alabama Sports Today)

Oxford also got 11 points from Ava Thomas, nine with two 3-pointers from JaMea Gaston and six from Shay Montgomery on Thursday. Thomas scored 21 points on Wednesday.

Wilson’s day Thursday included a 3-pointer.

“Last year, I wasn’t really playing, and this year, I had to step up,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of seniors go away. I had to help Xai out. She can’t do it all on her own.”

Jacksonville got 13 points from Jayci Taylor, 10 in the second half. Golden Eagles coach Corey Mize sees their advancement to the semifinals as a building block.

“I’m hoping next time, we don’t feel the pressure of the semis,” Mize said. “They’re the defending county champs, and we’re still a solid team.

“That’s what I told them. There’s nothing to hang their heads about. The effort was there. The intensity was there. We just couldn’t get any shots to fall.”

Jacksonville’s Jaguan Ervin goes up for two as Anniston’s Delroy Francis defends during their Calhoun County semifinal Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)


End 1Q: Jacksonville leads Anniston, 16-8.
Halftime: Jacksonville leads 37-20.
End 3Q: Jacksonville in control, 52-33.
Final: Jacksonville advances to the final, 66-41.

JACKSONVILLE 66, ANNISTON 41: Devin Barksdale scored 23 points, and Jaquan Ervin and Aaron Nixon added 11 apiece as Jacksonville avenged a loss to Anniston earlier this season to reach the final for the third year in a row.

Jacksonville’s Aaron Nixon lets fly of a 3-point attempt as Anniston’s Isaiah Allen defends on Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)

The two-time defending Class 4A state champion will play the Oxford-Alexandria winner Friday at 8 p.m. Jacksonville seeks its first county title since 1995.

“It’s a blessing, always,” second-year Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan said. “You can’t take it for granted. The Calhoun County tournament is always fun, always great competition.

“Any time you can make it to the championship, it’s a big deal.”

Oxford has won the past five county titles and beat Jacksonville in the last two county finals, 64-62 in 2022 and 43-40 in 2023.

“We’ve struggled for the past two years,” Barksdale said. “It’d be good (to get over the top). I believe we will.”

The No. 3 Golden Eagles handled the No. 2 seed Thursday, avenging a 46-44 loss on Dec. 21 at home. Jacksonville dominated from the start Thursday, leading 37-20 at halftime.

Barksdale said the Golden Eagles have done “soul searching” lately, trying to work through meshing a different mix of personalities this season.

Anniston probably felt the need for soul searching when it left Pete Mathews Coliseum on Thursday.

“It was mostly just attention to detail,” Anniston coach Torry Brown said. “Start of the game, the best shooter in the gym was so wide open right off the tip, and it was like that all game long.

“They came out with a better sense of urgency, and they made shots early, and they were consistent.”

Anniston’s Tykeria Smith sizes up a shot against Piedmont during their Calhoun County semifinal Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)


End 1Q: Anniston leads Piedmont 13-5.
Halftime: Anniston leads 33-13.
End 3Q: A’Kayla Perry hits a high-arching 3 at the buzzer after Piedmont had chipped away at the lead, and Anniston leads 42-28.
Final: Anniston advances to the final, 64-39.

ANNISTON 64, PIEDMONT 39: How badly do Anniston’s girls want the Calhoun County title back?

“Bad,” senior Tykeria Smith said.

“Very bad,” senior Layla Tyus said.

Smith scored 19 points, and Tyus added 16 as top seed Anniston earned its eighth finals berth in as many years. The Bulldogs hope for their first county title since 2021 when they play two-time defending champion Oxford on Friday at 6 p.m.

Anniston’s Tykeria Smith gets up a shot between Piedmont’s Jaycee Glover (left) and Morgan Studdard during their Calhoun County semifinal Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Oxford beat Anniston in the finals each of the last two years.

Anniston lost to the Oxford team that finished as Class 6A runner up in 2022. A depleted Anniston team, minus injured guard Serena Hardy, lost to Oxford a year ago.

The Bulldogs won their first 14 games this season and stand 22-3 headed into Friday’s game. Two of their losses came against 6A competition.

Anniston benefits from last season, when other players had to step up in Hardy’s absence. The Bulldogs’ eagerness showed Thursday, when they scored 17 of the game’s first 18 points.

“We came out with a lot of fire,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said.

Led by Cayla Brothers’ 12 points and Jaycee Glover’s 11, Piedmont trailed 33-13 at halftime but rallied to within 39-28 near the end of the third quarter. A’Kayla Perry’s high-arching 3-pointer at the buzzer started a 9-0 Anniston spurt, and the Bulldogs never looked back.

“Thought we played hard,” Piedmont coach Shane Morrow said. “We handled their pressure for probably 26 of the 32 mins, but you have to handle it the full 32. 

“By halftime,  we had dug ourselves in too big of a hole to climb out of, especially against a team as good as Anniston.  We did make a push in the third. I think we were down nine, with eight seconds, and the girl hit the 3 at the buzzer to go up 12.  Kinda took the wind out of us.”

Oxford’s Dashaun Calloway drives as Alexandria’s Quendavion McDowell defends during their Calhoun County semifinal Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)


End 1Q: Oxford leads Alexandria 22-17.
Halftime: Oxford leads 34-21.
End 3Q: Drake Davis drains a long three at the buzzer to close Alexandria within 48-41.
Final: Oxford advances to the final, .59-53.

OXFORD 59, ALEXANDRIA 53: Joel Van Meter coached Will Ginn at Jacksonville State. Two games in one day or not, Van Meter knew what his Oxford team would get when they played Ginn’s Alexandria team in Thursday’s Calhoun County semifinals.

“They weren’t going to give up. I wouldn’t expect them to give up,” said Van Meter, who was an assistant coach at Jax State when Ginn played there. “That’s kind of not in their DNA. I know Will really well, and he’s not going to give up on anything.”

Oxford guard Caleb Sanders hits a floater against Alexandria during their Calhoun County semifinal Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Van Meter got everything he expected as Alexandria made two second-half charges to close the gap, but top seed Oxford advanced to the county final for the eighth time in as many years and seeks its sixth consecutive title when it takes on No. 3 Jacksonville in Friday’s 8 p.m. final.

Oxford has beaten Jacksonville in the last two county finals … 64-62 in 2022 and 43-40 in 2023.

“It means the same thing every year,” Van Meter said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to play. For us to gain some momentum would mean everything.”

The difference this year for Oxford? Two days at the county tournament instead of three.

Forecasts of hazardous winter weather prompted tournament organizers to postpone Tuesday’s games. The revised schedule forced Oxford and Alexandria to have to win quarterfinal and semifinal games in the same day.

Oxford beat Saks 80-38 earlier Thursday, and starters rested for much of the second half. No. 4 seed Alexandria had more of a battle with No. 5 White Plains, leading by four points going into the fourth quarter before winning 62-50.

Ginn said fatigue showed against Oxford, even as the Valley Cubs clawed their way back into the game.

“You saw the shots,” Ginn said. “We didn’t make shots, and we didn’t make free throws. A lot of that is probably due to legs.

“Credit to them. They shot the ball better than we did, and I feel like we’re a pretty good shooting team.”

Jaylen Alexander led Oxford with 19 points. Marcus Perry, Jr. added 17 with four 3-pointers, and Dashaun Calloway added nine points.

It was enough to overcome Drake Davis’ 18 points and 12 apiece from Quendavion McDowell and Jaylen Henderson, but not without a struggle.

Alexandria trailed 34-21 at halftime and 38 21 early in third quarter but got back in the game. Davis’ long three at the third-quarter buzzer closed the gap to 48-41.

With the possession arrow, Alexandria had the ball to start the fourth, and McDowell’s offensive rebound gave the Valley Cubs two cracks at it. Henderson’s 3-point try from the corner bounced twice on the rim before coming off.

Alexandria got a stop, and McDowell’s spin move in the lane closed the gap to 48-43, but Oxford scored the next six points.

Alexandria had one more surge in it. Back-to-back Oxford turnovers resulted in a Cole Wheeler bucket and Davis hitting one of two free throws to make it 54-48 at 50.5 seconds.

After Perry hit one of two free throws to make it 55-48 with 49.7 ticks left, Davis missed a long three, which fell out of bounds. Two Elijah Malone free throws made the spread 57-48 at 38.2, and a Lewis free throw made it 58-48.

“I thought we played hard,” Ginn said. “I thought we played pretty good defense. We gave up too many offensive rebounds, but I thought overall, we were very intense and focused on the job at hand.

“To beat a good team, you have to make a few shots.”

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