Madison Academy’s girls have been that hard-to-score-on team all season. Jacksonville found out how hard Wednesday.
The Golden Eagles shot 22.7 percent from the field, fell behind and couldn’t string enough of a run late, and the Mustangs won 45-31 in Pete Mathews Coliseum to advance to the Final Four.
Madison Academy (26-7) will play the Central Regional winner Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Birmingham. Greensboro and Sipsey Valley play for the Central Regional title today.
Jacksonville finished 22-7.
Madison Academy has given up an average of 34.4 points a game this season, giving up 50 points or better six times. Including Jacksonville on Wednesday, the Mustangs have held opponents under 40 18 times.
“Defensively, we just get stops, over and over again,” Madison Academy coach Alissa Hargett said. “We just string stops together.”
That’s partly how the Mustangs turned a 5-5 game into a 16-5 lead by 5:37 of the second quarter and a 23-11 lead at halftime. Jacksonville broke 20 on all-tournament pick Kayla Broom’s 3-pointer to make it 36-22 at 7:00 of the fourth quarter.
The Golden Eagles had opportunities. All-tournament pick Kyra Williams, a reliable shooter all season, missed six of her first seven free throws, and Jacksonville was 8-for-16 on the day. They came up empty on a 3-on-1 break early in the fourth quarter.
That’s life against Madison Academy. The margin for error is so thin, and pressure mounts on each chance.
“We battled, and we fought,” Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan said. “We just came up short on making some shots and making enough plays.
“They’re a really good ball team, so give them a lot of credit.”
Tournament most valuable player Jaden Langford paced Madison Academy with 15 points, and all-tourney pick Jasmine Gracie added 10. The Mustangs went 10-for-34 from the floor (41.2 percent).
Jacksonville finished 10-for-44 from the field, including 3-for-20 on 3-point shots. Of the Golden Eagles’ 31 points, 19 came on second-chance opportunities.
Williams was 2-from-14 from the field but finished with 12 points to lead Jacksonville in her final high school game. Her regional included a 16-point performance in the Golden Eagles’ semifinal victory over Madison County.
“I have seven seniors on the team, and you couldn’t ask for a better one than the one sitting beside me,” Buzan said, pointing to Williams. “I’m a lucky coach that, when I inherited this team a couple of years ago, she happened to be on it. She made me look real good so many times.”
Jacksonville finished third in regular-season area play by won its area tournament and subregional to make it to Jacksonville. The Golden Eagles finished in 4A’s elite eight.
“We had an awesome season,” Williams said while tearing up. “I’ve been playing with Coach Buzan since I was a sophomore, and this has been the best season I’ve done had.”
Contact Sports Writer Joe Medley at email@example.com. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.