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White Plains Has a Special Moment

White Plains, the 2024 Class 4A, Area 10 champion. (Photo by Joe Medley)
White Plains, the 2024 Class 4A, Area 10 champion. (Photo by Joe Medley)

White Plains, AL – On a night when football country gave way to hoops country, second-ranked White Plains holds off No. 3 Jacksonville for 4A, Area 10 title.

By Joe Medley

There are those moments when hoop dreams fill a gymnasium, even in football country. Either that, or some school in Kentucky or Indiana must’ve been missing its gym Wednesday.

Fans filled the bleachers on both sides, as White Plains beat Jacksonville 59-54 in a classic Class 4A, Area 10 title game. They lined the baselines, prompting game officials to occasionally clear wall padding behind the goals.

When the last seconds ticked off, White Plains players and students converged in a modern-day Hoosiers scene, just royal blue and white. Senior Cam Almon, who hit the clinching bucket and free throw, wrapped his arms around friends who greeted him on the court, and senior Daniel Williams twirled a towel to those remaining in what was a packed student section.

“This is definitely exciting,” senior and tournament most valuable player Josh Wheeler said as Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” played over the public address. “This is definitely one of the best games I’ve ever played in.”

Coleman Ray, another member of White Plains’ eight-man senior class, fought to sum up the moment over an eruption of pep-band drums.

“It’s special, man,” he said. “We’ve been grinding since this summer, and we’ve been playing together since we were 3 years old and just dreaming about moments like this.”

White Plains’ victory hardly happened in a vacuum. It came five days after the Wildcats suffered a 64-61, senior-night upset by Class 1A Faith Christian. White Plains coach Chris Randall credited that loss with refocusing his team.

Class 4A, Area 10 wasn’t just any area this season. Jacksonville is the two-time defending Class 4A state champion and newly crowned Calhoun County champion. The Golden Eagles and senior-laden White Plains have carried top-five rankings almost every week there was an Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.

White Plains was No. 2, Jacksonville No. 3 in the season’s final two polls.

They clashed for the third time this season. The home team has won every time.Thanks to a regular-season split and coin flip, White Plains played host to the area tournament.

Both teams advance to subregionals, with White Plains set to play host to New Hope and Jacksonville headed to DAR for 6 p.m. tipoffs on Saturday. The Wildcats and Golden Eagles could meet again, in the Northeast Regional.

“They’re a great basketball team, so beating them means a lot to us,” Almon said.

On a night when almost as many cameras as people populated the baselines, White Plains gained a 2-1 edge on Jacksonville this season, leaving 23-year White Plains coach Chris Randall in a coach’s nirvana.

Backed to a cinder-block wall as his players, filed by on the way to their locker room felt the derived rejuvenation from their faces.

“You get old and kind or reminisce, and you have these snapshots in your head,” Randall said. “To see the joy on their faces after knowing what, basically, I put them through?

“I’m not the easiest guy to play for. I push them and grind them, and it’s not being mean. It’s because I love them.”

The Wildcats could smile about Wheeler’s 70-foot shot and the first-quarter buzzer to bring the Wildcats even, 13-13. He finished with a team-high 15 points.

They could smile about junior Ethan Turner’s one shining moment … a putback off of a missed free throw at the end of the second quarter. Along with all-tournament pick Paul Laube’s 3-pointer from the corner, Turner’s putback triggered a crucial 11-0 run that carried into the third quarter.

“Ethan Turner plays a total of three seconds and gets a putback,” Randall said.

White Plains went from trailing 22-21 to leading 32-22 and never again trailed, though the Wildcats had to live through a Devin Barksdale-fueled Jacksonville comeback. His game-high 32 points included 13, with three 3-pointers, in the fourth quarter.

Barksdale’s long three from the top brought Jacksonville within 54-51 with 55 seconds left.

“Devin can just break somebody down and go get his shot whenever he wants to, basically,” Randall said. “We’ve got to get a hand up and hope he misses.

“We can’t do that. We have to make six passes, set four screens, fake twice. We have to make them change sides of the floor about three times.”

When White Plains needed it, Almon broke open for a layup that came with an intentional foul with 31 seconds left. He hit the first of two free throws, and White Plains retained possession. That possession resulted in two Dylan Barksdale free throws.

White Plains had a 59-51 lead that Barksdale trimmed with another three, but that’s as close as Jacksonville could come.

All that remained was a burst of celebration, followed by trophies and pictures and social time on the court before the Wildcats returned to their locker room.

“I’ve got the best job in America, to see how happy they are after winning,” Randall said. “Now, I’ve got to go in there and get them back down to Earth and go back to work.

“But to back up and see the students, hear them chanting and see those guys enjoy it, that’s a big paycheck right there.”

Host and top seed White Plains comes out on top against Jacksonville 59-54 in the Class 4A, Area 10 tournament final.

Photos by Joe Medley

White Plains, the 2024 Class 4A, Area 10 champion.
The Class 4A, Area 10 all-tournament team (from left): White Plains’Josh Wheeler (MVP), Carter Johnson, Dylan Barksdale and Paul Laube; and Jacksonville’s Aaron Nixon, Devin Barksdale and Jaquan Ervin. Not pictured are Cherokee County’s Jacob Cornejo and Jayquan Diamond plus Cleburne County’s Grey Freeman and Cade Shubert.
Cover photo: White Plains players celebrate after winning the Class 4A, Area 10 final Wednesday.
White Plains players and fans celebrate the Wildcats’ Class 4A, Area 10 title Wednesday.
White Plains players and fans celebrate the Wildcats’ Class 4A, Area 10 title Wednesday.
White Plains players and fans celebrate the Wildcats’ Class 4A, Area 10 title Wednesday.
White Plains players collected the Class 4A, Area 10 champion’s trophy from Principal Andy Ward on Wednesday.
White Plains’ Coleman Ray goes up for a shot against Jacksonville in Wednesday’s Class 4A, Area 10 championship game at White Plains.
Jacksonville’s Gavin Peeler goes up for a bucket against White Plains in Wednesday’s Class 4A, Area 10 title game at White Plains.
Jacksonville’s Jaquan Ervin goes up for a layup against White Plains in Wednesday’s Class 4A, Area 10 title game at White Plains.
White Plains’ Cam Almon goes up for a clinching bucket on a play that also resulted in an intentional foul, free throw and possession for the Wildcats late in their victory over Jacksonville in Wednesday’s Class 4A, Area 10 title game at White Plains.
White Plains’ Josh Wheeler, the Class 4A, Area 10 tournament MVP, lines up a free throws as Dylan Barksdale (3) and Coleman Ray (12) look on Wednesday.

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