The Valley Cubs – who had already defeated Jacksonville by 20, nine and five points in their previous three meetings -- added a 79-52 win over the Golden Eagles in the Calhoun County Tournament on Thursday, advancing to the semifinals.
“We’ve been talking about this one for a while,” Alexandria center C.J. Swink said. “Even though we had beaten them three times we weren’t taking it lightly. We just kept playing and everyone kept making good passes and shots.”
Alexandria coach Jason Johnson correctly predicted a “dogfight” in the first quarter, with Jacksonville leading 18-15 after the opening period.
As the game neared halftime, Alexandria continued to sub players in, getting fresh legs on the court, and that ultimately made the difference.
“All 12 of us are even. If the first group isn’t doing too well then the second group will come in and help,” Alexandria guard Alton Davis said. “If the second group isn’t doing well then we’ll come in. We just do that the whole game.”
The third-seeded Valley Cubs took a 36-28 lead into halftime, but after a 7-0 run by Alexandria early in the third quarter gave it a 14-point lead, Jacksonville was all but done.
Golden Eagles guard Sid Thurmond scored seven consecutive points, but that was the last run Jacksonville would make against Alexandria’s trap defense.
The Valley Cubs started what would be a 27-9 run toward the end of the third quarter, taking a 55-43 lead into the fourth quarter. With fresh legs on the floor, Alexandria scored 13 consecutive points before Thurmond added a bucket.
And yet, Johnson was still hesitant to assume the victory until the final minutes of the game.
“There were still probably two minutes left in the fourth quarter when our assistant, Jake Welch, asked if I wanted to get some guys in and I was still scared,” Johnson said. “There’s enough coach in you that you never know and you’ve seen games be blown that always have you worried.”
Alexandria (14-5) was led by Swink, who scored 22 points and added five rebounds. Gabe Marchal contributed 12 points, while Tyrelle Gay and Luke Tucker each had 11 points.
Jacksonville (7-14) was led by Thurmond’s 21 points. Cam Horton added 15.
Alexandria will play second-seeded Anniston today at 8:30 p.m.
“Anniston is a pretty good team. They’re solid all around and have a lot of good players,” Swink said. “We haven’t played them yet so we’ll have to prepare for anything to happen.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star