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NE Regional: Supporting cast helps JCA, Vinson, overcome Lindsay Lane, Murr

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Jacksonville Christian's Chase Vinson blocks the shot by Lindsay Lane's Stephen Murr. JCA played Lindsay Lane in the Northeast Regional at JSU Thursday afternoon. It is JCA's first ever trip to the regional. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

JACKSONVILLE — One could sum up Jacksonville Christian’s Class 1A Northeast Regional semifinal with Lindsay Lane this way: both teams had one of these things that wasn’t like the others.

JCA had more around its special player and prevailed Thursday.

Center Chase Vinson scored 39 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, and his supporting cast helped him overcome Tommy Murr’s 56-point show to advance 82-78 in overtime in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.

The Thunder (23-11), winning in its first Northeast Regional appearance, will face Spring Garden in Monday’s 4:45 p.m. final. The winner advances to Birmingham for the state semifinals.

Long-time JCA coach Tommy Miller paused to choke back emotions before sizing up the moment for the Thunder program.

“These guys, they mean a lot to me and mean a lot to our whole school and the JCA family,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time, but I want it for them.

“I know a lot of coaches say that, but that’s the absolute truth. I can go home and get in my recliner and get my squirt cheese and them crackers and be happy, but these guys have a long way to go. What they’re doing right now is something they’re going to remember the rest of their lives.”

Lindsay Lane finished 22-7.

Vinson, JCA’s 6-foot-7 center and the key to the Thunder’s two-year surge in boys basketball, went 14-for-17 from the field and hit 11 of 14 free throws, including the clinching free throws in overtime.

“Chase, in the last game that got us here (against Ragland) and tonight, I feel like Chase is playing completely different than he’s played all year long,” Miller said. “Chase is playing with more intensity right now, and he played a great game.

“I feel like he’s playing his best all year long.”

Vinson also had three second-quarter blocks among his four overall, two of Murr on consecutive possessions, that helped JCA capture the lead. Eli Fair’s layup after the first block tied the game 23-23, and Fair’s jumper after the second block gave the Thunder a lead that reached 11 points at 6:01 of the fourth quarter and held until 1:08 of regulation.

“We were down, and I felt like if they had gotten a few more shots up and put them up, it would’ve intimidated us,” Vinson said. “It wouldn’t be a good spot to sit in.”

Murr, a senior, became the first boys player in Alabama High School Athletic Association history to surpass 5,000 career points in December. He broke his own state single-season scoring record by reaching 1,450 for the season in the Lions’ sub-regional victory over Woodville, and his performance Thursday gave him 1,506 for the season and 5,716 for his career.

Fair, JCA’s top defender and the man who had the pleasure of defending Murr on Thursday, called the Lipscomb-bound star “the best player I’ve seen on this court except for Ja Morant.”

Murr hit 23 of 47 shots, including 3 of 17 from 3-point range. He also had 10 rebounds and four steals in his final high school game.

“I understand that this was it,” Murr said. “That’s what we harped on in the last timeout. The entire mindset coming here was, leave everything out there basically. This could be our last half out there.”

Murr’s driving bucket put Lindsay Lane up 64-63 with 1:08 to play, Lindsay Lane’s first lead since midway through the second quarter, but Vinson hit one of two free throws to tie it at 57.4 seconds.

Kobe Messer was called for a foul attempting to rebound Vinson’s second free throw, and Murr hit both free throws to make it 66-64, Lindsay Lane.

Possession arrow saved JCA’s ensuing possession, and Messer’s baseline jumper tied the game.

Murr’s pass out of bounds at 4.7 seconds survived an officials' conference, and JCA called timeout to set up a final play. Messer’s halfcourt attempt bounced off the backboard, and the game went to overtime.

JCA scored the first four points of overtime, on a Messer bucket in the paint and Vinson’s short jumper, and the Thunder took the lead.

Charlie Morrison’s driving bucket in transition gave Lindsay Lane a 78-77 lead with 31 seconds left, but Vinson sank two free throws at 13.4 to reclaim the lead for JCA.

After a Lindsay Lane timeout, Murr took the inbounds pass, dribbled down court and threw the ball out of bounds.

JCA inbounded to Vinson, who drew a foul from Brady Anderson and hit both free throws to make it 81-78 with 5.8 seconds left.

The Thunder called a full timeout to set up its defensive plan, but Lindsay Lane tried a pass across the end line before inbounding. The clock operator started the clock before the ball came inbounds, running it down from 5.8 seconds to 3.2.

After officials huddled, Lindsay Lane was allowed to inbound at midcourt with 3.2 seconds left. Fair picked off the inbounds pass and got it to Vinson, who hit the first of two free throws with three-tenths of a second left.

Lindsay Lane coach Steve Murr, Tommy’s father, had alerted officials of a special play the Lions intended to run, but the clock operator didn’t know.

“We ran a play where, we’re out of bounds, and we bring another guy out of bounds and throw it long, just because they put so much emphasis on not letting us get the ball to Tommy,” Steve Murr said. “It worked just like it was supposed to, and he’s running full speed with an opportunity to pull up for a 3 and send it into a second overtime, and they blew a whistle. …

“Unfortunately, you don’t get that back, once they know what you’re doing.”

Vinson had the most help Thursday. Fair’s 14 points came mostly off of his six offensive rebounds and putbacks. Messer added 17 points.

“Jacksonville Christian is a really good team, and we don’t have a 6-7 at Lindsay Lane,” Steve Murr said. “If I could get one, I would. He was a huge presence, because we were able to get by guys, but then he was there, changing shots.”

Morrison was Murr’s top help, adding 14 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome JCA in its first Northeast Regional appearance since leaving Christian school ball to join the AHSAA in 2002.

“They’ve worked really hard to get here and put up with me for several years to get to this point,” Miller said. “I’m real happy that they’ve gotten this far and won at regionals.

“I sure want it to go further, but, however it ends up, I’m sure proud of them.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.

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