Jets Take Fourth In 41st Annual Rocket City Classic
The 41st annual Huntsville City Classic, formerly the Huntsville Times Classic, has become a tradition in the area we live. The Madison Record’s Bob Labbe is the only sports reporter to have covered all the Classic Tournaments since its inception in 1982.
HUNTSVILLE- The annual Huntsville City Classic has always been a barometer of how teams fare as the high school basketball season rolls along to the post-season playoffs. For the James Clemens Jets, a fourth-place finish in the 16-team tournament wasn’t exactly what the squad had hoped for, but, as Jets’ head coach Frankie Sullivan said, “The tournament showed us a lot. We had some players step up to the challenge and showed a lot of improving. This will help us out in the long run.”
In the three-day, 16-team event held at Huntsville High School, James Clemens opened round one with a 49-47 squeaker over Mae Jemison as Isaiah Cleaves, a sophomore, hit a shot at the buzzer to left the Jets as Bryce Mason scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Bob Jones started its tourney play with a 63-56 overtime win over Trotwood of Madison, Ohio as 6-foot-6 junior Kaden Rickard was 11 of 13 from the free throw line for the Bob Jones victory thus setting up a second-round head-to-head lockup between the two schools from Madison.
In the tussle between the two city powers, despite a 38-percent free throw shooting the Jets also outscored the Patriots 15-9 in the second quarter and held on for a 54-48 victory. Bryce Mason and Noah Gorman led the Jets in scoring with 11 and 10 respectively. Kaden Rickard had 10 and Ethan Whorton added nine for Bob Jones.
In the round three semi-finals, the tenth ranked Jets faced No. 1 ranked Huntsville. Against the Panthers, James Clemens shot just 38-percent from the field and a mere 28-percent at the foul line as the top-ranked Panthers outscored the Jets 34-20 in the second half cruising to a 66-53 win advancing to the tournament finals where they defeated Austin 61-60 to win their first Huntsville City Classic title since 1985. Huntsville had four players score in double figures while James Clemens was topped by Gorman with 19 points.
The Jets rolled into the third-place game against Grissom where the Jets ran into a buzzsaw performance by Grissom (12-10) which shot 61-percent from the floor and roared to a 71-64 victory. James Clemens (12-6) was led by Mason who had 27 points and Gorman with 12. The game was tied at halftime.
“Our players played hard as we had five players out with the flu leading up to the tournament and I’m very proud of my guys,” said Sullivan. “We do have to get better, but we had some good play in this tournament.”
Sullivan was extremely happy of the play of senior James Veal who came off the bench in a supporting role in back-to-back games. Veal is making his comeback from foot surgery of last year. Two years ago he suffered ankle injuries. “We also had Dylan Horton and Marc Woods play well, both of whom played for our football team,” added Sullivan, in his third season as head coach.
Bob Jones fell into the consolation bracket where it fell to the Centennial Cougars of Tennessee 52-48. Bob Jones is now 8-11 on the season. Fellow Class 7A Sparkman participated in the Classic as the Senators opened with a 64-50 victory over Columbia before losing to both Huntsville 82-59 and St. Pius 65-44.
Class 3A’s Madison Academy Mustangs lost its opening game versus Grissom 55-47 moving to the loser’s bracket action. Once there, the Mustangs defeated Florence 70-52 before exiting the tournament after a loss to Buckhorn.