James Clemens Fall In Last Second At State Championship In A Game Of Inches
BIRMINGHAM- With the possible winning shot in their hands for the last minute of the game, the James Clemens Jets missed on two opportunities within the last seven seconds to beat Enterprise only to see the fifth-ranked Wildcats take a rebound and toss the ball down court for a two-on-one break where the Wildcats’ Trevon Kemmerlin hit a six-foot shot with .9-seconds remaining to give Enterprise a gut-wrenching 66-64 victory and claim its first state championship in school history.
The tenth ranked Jets finish the season at 22-9, but were within inches of claiming the Class 7A state championships in their first ever appearance in the final four held at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham.
The loss was a heartbreaker for James Clemens which led by 10 late in third quarter. The two teams traded the lead four times in the final five minutes before Pierce Roper (6-0, 160, Jr.) tied the score at 64 on a free throw with 1:53 remaining. After the team traded possessions without scoring, James Clemens’ head coach Frankie Sullivan opted to hold the ball and play for a final push at scoring in the final seven seconds.
Jet’s senior star player Jordan Frazier (6-4, 160) shot a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining only to miss, but teammate John Paul Gilmore (6-5, 180, Jr.) grabbed the rebound and found the Jets’ leading scorer Frazier cutting to the basket. Frazier’s layup rolled off the rim within inches of a basket and being immortalized in Jets basketball history.
“We wanted to take the last shot,” said Sullivan. “That’s on me. I should have called timeout.”
The Jets made their way to the state title game with a convincing 80-66 semi-final win over No. 1 ranked Baker in a game that snapped a 22-game winning streak by Baker.
In the championship game, only two points separated the two squads at halftime despite James Clemens having a nine-point lead at one time in the first half. The second stanza, before the packed, zealous crowd, saw the Jets go on an 8-0 run and 10-point lead behind the play of freshman Simon Walker (6-2, 170) who finished the game with 14 points. Enterprise (25-6) kept chipping away at the Jets’ lead and actually led on the scoreboard before Roper’s game-tying free throw, which set up the final, frantic two minutes of the memorable contest for the state championship.
For James Clemens, both Frazier and Walker were named to the All-Tournament Team. Both Frazier and Roper ended the game with 15 points each. The Jets started two seniors and juniors and a freshman.
“I’ll be back. We’ll be back,” said the freshman Walker. “We’ve set the standard.”
The game ended with James Clemens on the short end of the score, but its season-long hard work caused other well-seasoned coaches to indicate the Jets may have the best team in the state. Just making it to Birmingham was a great honor, but to grasp the blue State Championship Trophy was the team’s goal, which was just inches away from reality.