Her 29-point showing in the state finals against Andalusia was a performance that won’t soon be forgotten. It helped her to become a Miss Basketball finalist.
But there’s more to Buchanon, and Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless saw it long before she and her Jacksonville teammates claimed the county spotlight this past season.
“Obviously, Lacey is a great basketball player,” Chambless said, “but what people don’t know about Lacey is she’s a great leader.”
For being everything Jacksonville needed her to be in order for the Golden Eagles to make history, Calhoun County coaches voted her as the county’s Class 4A-6A player of the year.
She also helped Chambless win recognition as the county’s big-schools coach of the year.
The senior point guard led Jacksonville in scoring at 16 points a game and assists at 5.4. She also came up biggest on the biggest stages, winning most valuable player honors in both the Northeast Regional and Final 48 tournaments.
That’s the part everyone saw.
Chambless saw Buchanon take on so much more behind the scenes.
“Just the way that, take a kid like Angel Kidd,” Chambless said about the freshman who became a starting guard for Jacksonville this season. “Lacey really took her under her wing.
“She keeps everyone motivated encouraged, the young girls especially.”
She also knew what Jacksonville was up against.
Coming into this season, the Golden Eagles had made just two appearances in the Northeast Regional and had gone 15 years since reaching the state semifinals. With all eyes on cross-county rival Anniston, Jacksonville wasn’t even favored to win its own area.
But Buchanon saw something developing at Jacksonville. She saw a team that improved during her junior year, Chambless’ first year on the job, and she saw younger players like Kidd and fellow freshman Virginia Poe developing around her.
They were building around a core that featured Buchanon and junior forwards Sharon Osterbind and Kenyatta Ervin, another player who improved dramatically headed into this past season.
Buchanon knew what Jacksonville had. She also knew what Jacksonville had going on around it and what the Golden Eagles were likely to hear.
“It hadn’t been done around here before, and I knew we were going to hear a lot of people around us doubting us,” she said. “I knew how that could affect especially the younger players.”
So Buchanon helped Chambless keep everyone sold on Jacksonville’s potential, even as the Golden Eagles lost three of four games against Anniston.
Then she backed it up with clutch performances, giving Jacksonville whatever it needed.
Take Golden Eagles’ state-semifinal victory over Midfield.
“I watched film on my computer and saw how they used a box-and-one against a girl they played in the regional, plus I knew Coach (Reginald) Ware from AAU ball,” she said. “I knew they would do that to me.”
Buchanon also knew Jacksonville had an edge in the post, so she became more of a distributor. She fed Osterbind, Ervin and Poe with six assists to go with nine points, and Jacksonville advanced.
In the finals against Andalusia, Buchanon knew she’d have more opportunities to attack the basket. She hit 12 of 20 shots and came up biggest in the second half, when Andalusia rallied.
Facing a key possession with Jacksonville protecting a 56-54 lead, she drove and scored with 1:29 to play.
“I just wanted to go to the basket there and at least get fouled,” she said.
In the end, Buchanon and her teammates got to rush the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Complex floor and claim a blue trophy. She was the easy choice as MVP.
For being everything Jacksonville needed — from scorer to distributor to clutch performer to leader — she was the easy choice as the county’s big-schools player of the year.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. Reach him at 256-235-3576. On Twitter: jmedley_star.