Anna-Jonesboro wins title
Wildcats beat Hardin County, 69-41, 5-0 for the week
Ham Co. defeats Johnston City; Benton beats host Goreville on final night

GOREVILLE – Two weeks ago on Saturday, most of the Anna-Jonesboro Wildcats were playing a playoff semifinal football game at Pleasant Plains.

Basketball was probably the furthest thing from their minds at that point.

But in just a fortnight the Wildcats turned from cleats to sneakers and from the gridiron to the hardwood.

Heading into the 6th Annual Goreville Invitational Tournament this team had just a few basketball practices.

Five games in six days is a stern test for a squad with a full amount of practices, let alone one with limited hoops' preparation.

Nevertheless head coach Mike Chamness and his coaches got things in order heading into the week and it paid off with five consecutive victories and an outright tournament championship.

The Wildcats, led by tournament Most Valuable Player Jake Parr, took care of business as they put away Hardin County in the second half of a 69-41 triumph to end the week undefeated.

It was the second outright tournament title for Anna-Jonesboro in this event (third overall) since the beginning of the tournament in 2012 took home first place in 2013. They shared the championship in 2015.

“Coming back today, after getting a big win over Goreville (73-67) on their home floor took a lot out of us physically and emotionally. We came back this morning and played well and took care of business. And then we had to do that again tonight. That is a lot on our guys,” said Coach Chamness. “But we have a lot of seniors on this club that went through all of this last year and that experience really helped us.”

Parr topped all scorers on Saturday night with 18-points while 6-foot junior Carson Reynolds added 11.

Five-foot-nine senior guard Ross Pinnon scored nine-points as A-J had ten different players score in the contest.

Consecutive victories over Benton, Johnston City, Goreville, Hamilton County and then Hardin County gave A-J a clean sweep of the tournament and the hardware for this invite.

“Two weeks ago today our guys were playing football at Pleasant Plains so we are still pretty new to this (season) as far as having our guys and having our practices,” said Coach Chamness. “We wanted to use this week to see about 'what do we do well' and 'what do we need to get better at' and hopefully now that we have some days off we can correct some things. Hopefully we can get better every day.”

Even though winless Hardin County put up a good fight for a half on Saturday night, Anna-Jonesboro had little trouble putting the Cougars away with a strong third quarter run.

For head coach Rodney Lane the learning curve for his mostly young squad was tough, but according to this mentor, his team will be much better for it in the long run.

Hardin County went 0-5 for the second straight season playing larger schools in this tourney.

Junior guard Jaron Austin led the Cougars with 12-points.

Jamison Hicks tossed in six-points while the three “C's”, senior Hunter Cullum, junior Conrad Cowsert and freshman Cole Cosby ended up with five-points each.

“Overall, we got a lot better this week. This week has really helped us,” said Coach Lane about his club. “We played Goreville pretty well today, we were down just five-points with four minutes left. Tonight we didn't have any legs left and right now our bench is pretty short. But as the year goes on we're going to get a lot better and this week did us a lot of good.”

But this night, as well as the entire week, belonged to the Wildcats.

Coach Chamness' club jumped out to an early 18-4 lead in the first quarter.

Parr scored 10 of his points in the early run.

Just five seconds into the game, Parr had his first bucket off the opening tip for a 2-0 advantage.

After a basket by Hardin County's Gabe Fowler, a 6-foot junior forward, evened the score, A-J scored the next nine-points to take command.

Pinnon added five-points in the run on a couple of nice cuts to the basket.

His first one resulted in a three-point play and his second was a result of a steal by Parr and a transition score for an 11-2 lead with 5:46 left in the opening quarter.

Parr added another drive to the bucket and then a pair of free throws to give Anna-Jonesboro a 14-point cushion.

“He (Parr) is such a competitor. He is going to do what it takes. Whether he has to carry us on his back or not, he is going to do what it takes to get us a win,” said Coach Chamness.

Austin, with five-points late in the quarter, got the Cougars going offensively to close out the frame.

He, too, got loose for a couple of drives to the basket for points.

He added a free throw after being fouled on his first move to the goal and his second score on a driving bank shot ended the quarter with Hardin County down just 20-11.

Austin added five more points to begin the second quarter, including a rebound basket while being fouled.

His made free throw got the spread down to just 22-16 at the 6:51 mark.

On this night, while the Cougars stayed packed in a zone defense, the Wildcats fired away from the outside with pretty good success.

Anna-Jonesboro added a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter, one each from Parr, senior guard Sheldon McGrath and Pinnon.

When McGrath nailed his shot from the right corner, A-J was back up by double-digits at 28-18.

The Cougars got a nice hustle play by Austin as he grabbed a a loose ball near the center line and, while falling down, passed the ball to Cowsert who scored on a lay in while being fouled.

The Pinnon trey and a score from Hardin County's Hicks closed the first half at 31-23 A-J.

The Wildcats, after giving up a inside score to Hicks in the first minute of the second half, put Hardin County away with a 19-2 run.

Fifteen of the points came on five 3-pointers.

Pinnon, senior guard Jacob Zimmerman and Parr each hit 3-point shots while Reynolds hit two of the 20-footers.

Two free throws by Parr, and the second bomb by Reynolds, closed a 14-0 part of the run at 50-27 with just 1:05 left in the quarter.

Cullum stopped the run with a 3-pointer but A-J sophomore Noah McFarland got into the fun with a reverse lay in for a score to close the third quarter with the Wildcats in control at 52-30.

Another Reynolds 3-pointer was part of a 7-2 beginning of the fourth quarter to expand the lead to 57-32.

Both coaches went to their reserves to finish out the last six-minutes of the contest.

Anna-Jonesboro hit on 23-of-54 shots from the field, including 11-of-29 from the arc against the Cougars' zone.

They held a slight 29-25 rebounding edge but they snagged 13 offensive rebounds in the game.

They committed just 10-turnovers, with four of them coming late in the fourth quarter with the bench players on the floor.

“We talked about it (turnovers) all week and we were in the 15 range so we wanted to be under 10 tonight,” said Coach Chamness. “We were much better execution wise on offense tonight.”

The Cougars were just 17-of-41 overall and 2-of-8 from the 3-point line.

Unable to take care of the ball for most of the night, Hardin County was forced into 21-turnovers, including seven in the opening minutes that helped Anna-Jonesboro take over the match up.

Anna-Jonesboro jumps into their regular season next weekend with a pair of key road games at Nashville and at Cobden while the Cougars hit the road with a game at Carrier Mills on Friday night.

Hardin County
Anna-Jonesboro (69) – T. Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Pinnon 2 2 1-1 11, McGRath 1 2 0-0 8, Pena 0 0 0-0 0, Zimmerman 0 1 0-0 3, Reynolds 0 3 0-0 9, N. Smith 0 0 0-1 0, Parr 4 2 4-4 18, Overstreet 1 1 2-2 7, Jerolds 1 0 0-0 2, McFarland 1 0 4-4 6, McMahan 0 0 0-0 0, Sawyer 1 0 0-0 2, Craig 1 0 1-2 3, Tweedy 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-12, 3FG-11, FT-12-14, PF-12.

Hardin County (41) – Banks 0 0 0-0 0, Jo. Johnson 1 0 0-0 2, Je. Johnson 0 0 0-0 0, Austin 5 0 2-2 12, Smock 1 0 0-0 2, Cullum 1 1 0-0 5, Cosby 0 1 2-2 5, Wallace 0 0 0-0 0, Cowsert 2 0 1-2 5, Fowler 2 0 0-0 4, Fricker 0 0 0-2 0, Hicks 3 0 0-0 6.
2FG-15, 3FG-2, FT-5-8, PF-16.

Fouled Out – Austin - Hardin County.
Technical Fouls – None.
The Foxes ended their week on a high note by topping fellow Black Diamond Conference foe Johnston City.

Coach Jeremy Varner saw his club get 17-points from senior guard Jake Whipple in the victory to finish the week at 2-3.

Hamilton County also got 10-points from junior Randy Schaefer and nine-points from Hunter Braden.

Johnston City head coach Scott Burzynski saw his club finish the week at 1-4.

The Indians were led by junior guard Chase Selby with 16-points and senior guard Matt Campbell with 13.

The Foxes did a lot of damage from the foul line, hitting 17-of-28 while JC could only get to the line limited times, hitting 8-of-9.

Johnston City
Hamilton County
Johnston City (41) – Gualdoni 0 0 0-0 0, Beasley 0 0 0-0 0, Campbell 0 3 4-4 13, Hall 1 0 2-2 4, Johnson 1 0 1-2 3, McPherson 0 0 0-0 0, Selby 2 4 0-0 16, Yotkewich 2 0 1-1 5.
2FG-6, 3FG-7, FT-8-9, PF-21.

Hamilton County (51) – Gray 0 0 0-0 0, Whipple 7 0 3-7 17, Schaefer 1 1 5-5 10, Rubenacker 1 0 5-8 7, Braden 4 0 1-2 9, Webb 1 0 0-0 2, VanAbbema 0 1 2-4 5, Morgan 0 0 1-2 1, Weaver 0 0 0-2 0.
2FG-14, 3FG-2, FT-17-28, PF-15

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.

Benton ended its week with a 72-46 victory over the host Blackcats as the Rangers were 4-1 at the GIT.

With the loss, the hosts ended up 3-2 for the tournament.

The All-Tournament Team consisted of MVP Jake Parr, Sheldon McGrath and Ross Pinnon of Anna-Jonesboro; Cade Thomas, Parker Williams and Gehrig Wynn of Benton; Tanner Dunn and Braden Webb of Goreville; Matt Rubenacker of Hamilton County and Chase Selby of Johnston City.