JMA boys, girls again have historic seasons

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The John Milledge Academy boys and girls basketball teams put together phenomenal seasons this spring. After winning their first state championship last year, the top-seeded JMA boys came extremely close to defending their title as they fell 49-47 in the GISA AAA state championship game last Saturday against No. 3 seed St. Andrews. Meanwhile, the Lady Trojans lost in the final four for the third straight season with a tough semifinal loss to No. 2 seed Holy Spirit Prep last Friday.

Both JMA squads compiled perfect 8-0 records in Region 4-AAA play, supported by a dominant 22-3 overall mark for the boys and a sensational 20-5 record for the girls. The boys and girls also won their respective region tournaments right before the state playoffs began.

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JMA boys head coach David Gallagher was proud of his team and the way his players battled and played team basketball all season long. The Trojans displayed exceptional chemistry throughout the season with their willingness to share the ball and trust each other every time they stepped on the court. JMA’s team-oriented culture and style of play was indicative in their assist numbers. In fact, they recorded an incredible 31 assists against Westfield in the first round of the playoffs.

“This group of guys was a pleasure to coach,” Gallagher said. “They were super coachable and super unselfish. We had a lot of games where we shared the ball really, really well. It was a very fun group to coach, and I enjoyed every moment of the season.”

Despite their heartbreaking loss at the final hurdle, the Trojans put together an exciting run to reach their second consecutive championship game.

In the semifinals, the Trojans staged an epic comeback and won a thrilling battle at the buzzer. JMA fought hard as always and recovered from a 15-2 first-quarter deficit before the contest ended in dramatic fashion. With three seconds on the clock, JMA senior Marcus Prestwood caught an inbound pass from teammate Briggs Eady and delivered with a tough bucket over a seven-footer to send the Trojans through to the final stage.

Prestwood had himself an outstanding senior season as he averaged a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game, along with 16.5 points and 2.8 assists. The senior stud recorded a double-double in each of his last two games, including an incredible 17 points and 17 rebounds in the championship game.

In the finals, the Trojans faced Zyere Edwards, one of the best players in the state. The St. Andrews superstar put up 30 points in the championship round as JMA had no answer for the speedy point guard.

“Zyere Edwards is the fastest kid in the state, and he can shoot the ball really well,” Gallagher said. “We were keying in on him. We forced him to take some tough shots, and he made some tough shots.”

The JMA boys will lose five seniors in Prestwood, Grayson Aldridge, Tommy Collier, Hunter Hudson, and Keith Robbins. Robbins will play for Belmont next year as he continues his basketball career at a Division I program. He unsurprisingly led the team with 16.8 points per contest this season.

Of the core rotational players for JMA, twins Briggs and Banks Eady will return as the team’s only two seniors next year. JMA sophomore Jalan Butts will continue to improve as he begins his junior season. Butts showed flashes of brilliance in his first year as a full-time varsity player, making a statement with his 26-point explosion in the first round.

“We’ve got some guys who will be ready to go after it and compete for the spots that took up the minutes our five seniors left behind,” Gallagher said. “We’re gonna miss our five seniors tremendously. They all brought positivity, good attitudes, and good work ethics to practice every day. It’s going to be a different era. I wouldn’t call it a rebuild because the young guys that have been there with me have been building, but it is definitely going to be a different era.”

The JMA girls will look to get over the semifinal hump next season as they say goodbye to just two seniors in Avery Barton and Griffin McMichael. Sharpshooting sophomore Maggie Prestwood, the younger sister of Marcus, knocked down five three-pointers for the Lady Trojans in her team’s final game of the spring. Maggie will return next season, along with fellow starters Jordan Prestridge and Allie Osborne. 

Osborne, a JMA sophomore, provided a key post presence for her team this year. In fact, she notched a team-high 16 points in the championship game.

Ultimately, the JMA boys and girls basketball teams dominated their respective region yet again. Next season, the boys team will look to fill in the holes left by star seniors Prestwood and Robbins. Aiming to finally break through to the state championship game, the girls will return with a very similar roster, aiming to build upon the constant improvement of their young talents and the chemistry they have developed as a unit over the last few months.

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