Jacksonville Christian had a great player in center Chase Vinson in 2019-20. The Thunder had other good players.
All it needed was someone to convince a capable roster that it could go where no JCA team had gone.
Tommy Miller got the Thunder boys to the Northeast Regional and Alabama High School Athletic Association state semifinals for the first time, making him The Anniston Star’s Class 1A-3A Calhoun County boys basketball coach of the year.
JCA finished 24-7, falling 60-51 to Lanett in the 1A semifinals in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. This after the Thunder won its first Northeast Regional title in the program’s first appearance.
To get to the regional, JCA had to go on the road to beat Ragland in a subregional game.
JCA split four games with area rival Spring Garden, losing the regular-season game and area final at Spring Garden, which won a coin toss for the right to host. The Thunder won two games against the Panthers in Jacksonville, including their dramatic regional final in Pete Mathews Coliseum.
With Miller resisting the urge to call timeout, grandson Eli Fair hit a hear-midcourt shot to give JCA the 52-49 victory that sent the Thunder to Birmingham.
Miller established JCA’s program 32 years ago. His many hats at the school include principal and head coach in boys basketball and baseball. He also coached the school’s football program before low participation forced JCA to discontinue football.