Oxford spoils Jacksonville’s bid to win first county title in 27 years, tying own record for consecutive titles; Houck named MVP
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE — Rylan Houck really didn’t take offense when he was passed over for Calhoun County Basketball Tournament MVP last year, even though he was the kingpin of the winning team.
But it’s safe to say the feeling was much more satisfying on Friday night.
Less to right a great cosmic wrong and more to acknowledge his dominance in this game, Houck was named this year’s MVP after leading Oxford to top seed Jacksonville 64-62 in a game that went down to the last blow. for another county tournament crown.
“I told you the other day there was nothing better than this win,” Houck said. “If we had lost that game and I had won the MVP trophy, it would have had no value for me.
“But the fact that we won and I understand that, yes, there is a little something extra, but winning is by far my favorite part.”
There was a lot of talk about Jacksonville’s bid to win their first county men’s title in 27 years and Oxford’s win spoiled that. But it also allowed the Yellow Jackets to equal a record they set more than a century ago of four straight titles.
They have won the tournament 22 times all-time and five of the last six years. They’re 17-1 in tournament play this current series — and Houck has been around them all.
The Jackets also won four games in a row from 1961 to 1964, the last two teams in which the stepfather of current Oxford coach Joel VanMeter, Larry Skinner, played. Five other times a team has won three in a row, but they have never managed the slam like Oxford did on Friday.
“It’s awesome,” VanMeter said when recalling the Jackets’ unique place in tournament history. I just try to help them and it’s really rewarding for me.
“As a player, growing up, I never experienced things like that. I wasn’t on a very good high school basketball team and we didn’t win at a high level and the the fact that I can help build (and) experience it makes me feel good.
While making it a full set of championship rings for all four fingers of his shooting hand, Houck left no doubt as to the veracity of his position as this year’s MVP.
He scored 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked two shots in the title game and was the tournament’s third-leading scorer with an average of 23 points per game. He was also the best offensive player in the tournament.
“I loved that he was able to win the game this year and become MVP because I think he deserved it,” VanMeter said. “I thought he was the best player in the tournament.”
Kyler Wright scored 11 points and made several big 3s to respond to scores that gave Jacksonville a lead. And don’t call him an eighth grader anymore Jaylen Alexander had 10 points.
Jacksonville was led by 17 points from recent addition JaLiek Long. Devin Barksdale had 10. John Broom, who averaged 19 points in the tournament, was limited to nine points but was named tournament MVP.
The Jackets made nine straight free throws late in the fourth quarter, which seemed to have them on course to win the game, but they missed four in a row in the final 30 seconds and Jacksonville got back into it.
Caden Johnson’s return gave Jacksonville a 64-62 win. Johnson, who briefly quit the game in the second half after injuring his lower right leg, had the ball in his hands for a final shot but his 3-pointer from the top of the sideline at the buzzer missed just left of the objective.
It was the closest men’s championship game since Anniston beat Sacred Heart 56-54 in 2014 and only the second decided by two points or less since 1999.
“We held on,” Houck said. “We locked ourselves in. We did what we had to do to win.”
For Jacksonville, it was another case of an opponent imposing his will and the Golden Eagles never being able to shake him. They have lost five games this season and in all five losses the opposition have prevented them from getting out and running as they would like.
Games from the 50s and 60s do them no good when they want to play in the 70s, 80s and beyond. But that’s how Oxford played against everyone this year.
“We didn’t play our game,” Jacksonville coach Shane Morrow said. ” We have already talked about that. We didn’t run; we didn’t go out and run.
“We talked about it before the match, and today during our PE period. We said it would be a battle of wills. We knew they wanted to slow down and make it a half-court game and we had to step it up and we didn’t in the first half.
“We started accelerating them a bit in the second half and things started to turn in our favor but it just didn’t work our way. Give them a lot of credit because they imposed their will Their defense is tough.
With the Oxford girls winning their title earlier in the evening, it was the first time since 2014 (Anniston) that the same school has won both crowns and the first time it has been done by the Yellow Jackets.
BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Oxford 64, Jacksonville 62
OXFORD- Rylan Houck 9-16 7-9 26, Kyler Wright 4-14 0-1 11, Jaylen Alexander 2-5 4-4 10, Ashton Mitchell 2-2 2-4 6, Zurrell Garrett 2-3 1-2 5, Jayden Lewis 1-1 2-2 4, Michael McGraw 0-4 2-4 2, JD Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 18-26 64.
JACKSONVILLE– JaLeik Long 6-7 0-2 17, Devin Barksdale 4-7 2-2 14, John Broom 2-8 5-6 9, Caden Johnson 4-10 1-2 9, Cam Johnson 2-9 2-4 7, Quin Long 1-4 1-1 3, Julian Hill 1-5 0-0 3, JaeTaj Morris 0-1 0-0 0, Ethan Duke 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 11-17 64.
Oxford 19 7 18 20 – 64
Jacksonville 17 8 17 20 – 62
3-point goals: Oxford 6-15 (Houck 1-2, Wright 3-10, Alexander 2-3); Jacksonville 11-28 (J. Long 5-6, Barksdale 4-7, Broom 0-4, Cd. Johnson 0-2, Cm. Johnson 1-5, Q. Long 0-1, Hill 1-3). Rebounds: Oxford 32 (Houck 14); Jacksonville 35 (Broom 9, Cd. Johnson 8, Cm. Johnson 6). Fouling: Cm. Johnson. Total fouls: Oxford 16, Jacksonville 18.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM
Alex Odam, Piedmont
John Broom, Jacksonville
Cam Johnson, Jacksonville
Ethan Richerzhagen, Christian of Faith
Antonio Kite, Anniston
By Anthony Walton, Alexandria
Julian Wright, Alexandria
Rylan Houck, Oxford
Jaylen Alexander, Oxford
Sean Parnell, Saks
Walker Osteen, White Plains
Kohl Perry, weaver
Garrett Cranmer, Pleasant Valley
Ethan Fair, Christian Jacksonville
Most Valuable Player: Rylan Houck, Oxford
Best Offensive Player: Rylan Houck, Oxford
Best Defensive Player: John Broom, Jacksonville