James Clemens to face Austin in Area Championship game Thursday, Patriots eliminated
DECATUR – The James Clemens Jets (18-11) took down Florence (15-12) in the first game of the 7A Area 08 semifinals on Tuesday at Austin High School by a score of 57-49.
JC had major contributions from several players, but the junior London Townsend shined with 19 points while the Jets’ senior Bryce Mason racked up 16 in the postseason win.
“The team fought hard and no one on this team has been to Wallace yet,” Mason said.
It was more than just points in this game.
James Clemens played with fire to dive for the ball or lunge fearlessly into a gap to make a play.
Guys like Townsend maneuvering around a heavy defensive press, Mason drilling a clutch 3-point shot, or Noah Gorman driving to the basket in the fourth quarter to help close out the game.
The Jets battled a formidable Florence team that had three players score at least 12 points in the loss.
The Falcons were led by the sophomore Jayshod Pearson with 16 points while the juniors Jamarrion Reeder and Julian King finished with 12 each.
The game was back and forth in the first quarter as the schools battled to a 7-7 deadlock.
Townsend took over the second quarter with two field goals and three free throws to end the first half and push the Jets out front at 19-17.
Mason heated up in the third after only hitting a 3-point shot in the first half.
The James Clemens senior was a force on both sides of the court swooping in to steal the ball and drain key shots that helped the Jets add to the lead.
“I mean, we played tough,” said Mason, who scored 10 points in the third quarter alone.
“The thing about the past two weeks is that we have been having crazy tough practices and we have been playing hard. And when you play against each other like that in practice, it makes it easier in the game.”
Florence would not go quietly though as the Falcons continued to fight and score points from mostly Reeder and Pearson in the fourth quarter.
That once healthy James Clemens advantage was suddenly teetering on the verge of a collapse.
There were two plays in this game defined how it would end and they happened back-to-back in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
With 1:47 on the clock, Reeder took a shot from downtown and it ripped through the net violently for a 3-ball that made it 47-46 JC.
There was blood in the water and the Florence fans could smell it as they boomed with cheers in the Austin gym.
Fresh off the Reeder bucket, the Jets took the ball down the court and found Gorman deep in the corner for a massive 3-pointer that slammed the door back in Florence’s face with 1:28 to go.
That final minute and a half seemed to drag on.
The clock moved slowly with a sickening lurch that caused the Jets to find a way to bury Florence once and for all.
The job rested mostly on the shoulders of London Townsend who made five clutch free throws in the final minute to nullify the once-dangerous Falcons.
“It’s just shooting free throws in practice,” Townsend said.
“We do a little plus-minus drill and we have got to be plus four to win so I am always the last one to shoot in those situations.”
James Clemens faces Austin (26-4) in the Area Championship this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Austin High School.
The Black Bears eliminated Bob Jones (11-18) in the second Area Semifinal game on Tuesday 58-43.
The youthful Patriots were outmatched from the get-go, but that didn’t stop Kaiden Rickard from racking up 22 points in the losing effort.
Austin jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter and finished the first eight minutes of action leading 11-4.
Bob Jones woke up in the second quarter and began to give the Black Bears more of a game.
A 3-point shot by MJ Robinson for the Patriots even pulled them close down 19-14 with a minute to go before halftime.
Austin would lead 24-14 at the midway point.
The second half was more of the same as Bob Jones could never really get back into the contest as the Black Bears scored with ease while the Patriots would turn the ball over or whiff on a slam dunk.
Both Austin and James Clemens will move on to sub-regional play on Feb. 10 at Wallace State in Hanceville.