The Golden Eagles flew past Madison County in the Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinals 61-42 on Thursday, which sets them up with their third meeting with Anniston this season.
If Jacksonville is able to overcome its Calhoun County rival in the regional final, it will return to the Final Four for the first time since winning the 4A state championship.
“We’ve played Anniston twice and I thought there were times we played well and other times we didn’t play so well,” Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless said. “We’re just going to try to play better.
“You can’t ask for a better opportunity. This is exactly where you want to be.”
The Golden Eagles made a statement against Madison County, which hadn’t lost in the semifinals of the Northeast Regional in school history until Thursday.
Jacksonville jumped out to a 17-8 lead heading into the second quarter, which provided all the confidence it needed.
“I think confidence is a bit of a thing for us,” Golden Eagles guard Virginia Poe said. “Coming out we always want to start fast so that we get our confidence up and know we can hit shots. Once we get a few stops on defense that really helps us out a lot. I think we were a little nervous coming out so getting our confidence up was big for us.”
Madison County was able to cut the deficit to 28-22 at halftime, but Jacksonville shut down the Tigers’ attack in the third quarter, holding them to three points. The defense kept Madison Baggett, who scored 15 points in the first half, off the scoreboard during the quarter. Baggett finished with 28.
The 16-point lead heading to the fourth quarter was more than enough to seal the win.
“To beat a team that was in the state finals last year that has a lot of players back from that team,” Chambless said, “and to be in position to now be in a game that you can win to go to Birmingham, you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
The win gives Jacksonville a chance to redeem its two double-digit losses to Anniston this season. The most recent was the Calhoun County tournament championship last month.
“I’ve had some ideas, but I’ve thought I’ve had some good ideas and they didn’t work the first time. I’m going to put it in the hands of the kids and turn it over to them. We’ll see if we can play a little bit better and come out winners this time.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.