MILLEDGEVILLE — In a stunning upset Thursday night the John Milledge Academy Trojans knocked off the heavily favored Bethesda Academy Gators in the region 3-AAA GISA tournament.
The Gators had only lost one game in the last three years of region play coming into the semi-final match up against JMA. Needless to say, no one, besides the Trojans themselves really gave JMA a chance. But JMA refused to be intimidated, solidly defeating their Goliath, 47-39.
The victory was by no means easy, and every possession was hotly contested on both sides. JMA played a very high energy defense all night long, fueled in part by the enthusiasm of the home town fans and in part by the infectious passion of their head coach, Thomas Craig. Craig was as animated on the court as any of the fans in the stands, jumping, waving, high-fiving his guys and cheering them on. The Trojans left plenty of blood and sweat on the court hustling for loose balls and battling for every basket. Their free-throw shooting left much to be desired, but JMA managed to sink charity shots down the stretch.
Craig said he was very proud of his team and coaching staff.
“We’ve been knocking at the door all year, and we keep battling. That’s what we keep telling our kids. Keep fighting day in and day out. I’ll tell you, when you never give up, and you believe in what you do, good things happen. That’s what happened for us tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of those thirteen guys.”
JMA was led again by the outstanding play of senior Brantley Attaway. He ended the night with 19 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Though Attaway was the leader in statistics, it was good team basketball that put JMA over the top. Each player took his role seriously and played it well. This is reflected in the fact that the Trojans only turned the ball over five times all night, and their defense was almost impenetrable.
Also contributing were junior Brandon Panfil with 10 points and seven boards, sophomore Chase Register with seven points, Junior Vince McPherson with four, senior Michael Lewis with three, and senior Jesse Deariso with two.
Craig said he believes the Trojans are hitting their peak.
“We tell our kids championships aren’t won in December. They’re won in February,” said Craig. “And you know, here we are, we got our foot in the door and it’s time to go finish this thing off. This is the biggest game this school’s played since 1991, when they won the last region. It don’t get any bigger than this. It’s the biggest stage where we’re at right now. And hey, we’re hungry. These guys deserve every bit of it.”