The Mortimer Jordan girls basketball team (14-6, 6-0 Class 5A, Area 11) rarely seemed unsure on Tuesday night in Kimberly. The Blue Devils knocked down 10 3-pointers, five of which came courtesy of eighth-grader Sarah Kanaday, en route to a 56-32 league win over Corner (10-8, 3-4).

Mortimer Jordan head coach Kelly Robinson believes his girls have pulled confidence from earlier wins over bigger schools like Pelham and Gardendale this season.

“We’ve been getting a lot better,” said Robinson. “I really feel like it goes back to playing those bigger schools and the fact that this year we’re actually winning some of those, so we’re getting confident.”

Junior Mackenzie Watson certainly wasn’t lacking confidence early on as she dribbled to the left side for back to back triples in the first quarter, which helped Jordan build a 20-10 cushion heading into the second frame. Watson finished with 13 points to go with 17 more from Kanaday and 11 from Bella Machen.

Watson and Kanaday kept the pedal down in the second quarter, taking turns from behind the arc. Kanaday brought the opening half to an end with a deep splash from the left wing, sending her team to the locker room with a 34-18 advantage.

Senior point guard Jadyn Allen, who’s season was cut short due to injury, has become a valuable presence on the Mortimer Jordan bench.

“I’ve got a great assistant coach now,” said Robinson of Allen. “Now she’s over on the bench with me and she’s talking with [players] when they come off; she’s helping me with stuff that I don’t even see sometimes, so she’s handled it great. We’ve all shed some tears for her, but… the glass is half full.”

Robinson credits Kanaday, Machen and Watson for stepping up in the absence of Allen. All three spent time covering talented Corner senior Jiselle Woodson Tuesday night. The Wallace State signee led Corner with 10 points, but was held to a minimal output by her standards. Many of her points came via penetration and working for free-throw opportunities.

“Obviously you’re aware of her [Woodson],” said Robinson. “She’s usually one of the best if not the best player on the court in our area, but this is a team game. I told my girls to help and make her work for everything she gets.”

The next leading scorer for Corner was Brantly Bonds, who poured in eight points.

Mortimer Jordan will host Hayden on Friday night with a shot at the Area 11 regular season championship. “If we shoot the ball like we did tonight, we should be in good shape,” said Robinson.

For the third year in a row the Mortimer Jordan boys basketball team (10-11, 6-0 Class 5A, Area 11) will play host to its area tournament. The Blue Devils locked up that honor with a 50-42 home win over Area 11 rival Corner (11-12, 3-4) Tuesday night, securing the regular season portion of the league championship.

“To win the regular season area title three years in a row is just special,” said third-year Mortimer Jordan head coach Josh Golden. “My assistant just said he figured up today that we’re 20-2 in area play the last three years and most all of them have been really close games because our area is very competitive. Tonight is the culmination of a lot of hard work and I’m just really proud of our guys.”

His team started fast Tuesday night, jumping out to a 12-4 first-quarter lead which later became a 25-13 halftime lead, but things got hairy down the stretch.

Corner put together some defensive stops in the second half and evened things up at 31-all late in the third. Senior Jason Manning drove inside to convert an and-1 opportunity, which locked things back up at 40 with 2:28 remaining in the game.

However, it took Mortimer Jordan senior Josh Burns 11 seconds to answer with an open 3-pointer—his team’s only triple of the second half. That shot gave the Blue Devils the lead for good.

“I was proud of our guys for finding a way to get it done by ramping up the defensive intensity, but they’re tough,” said Golden. “They’re very well coached. They’ve always got a great plan and I was glad that our guys were able to get enough stops down the stretch to make it happen.”

One of those stops came moments later when Manning, the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, was called for a travel with less than a minute remaining and the Blue Devils leading by 5.

Mortimer Jordan hammered down the win with an 8 for 9 effort at the charity stripe during the final eight minutes of play. Golden believes this is his best free-throw shooting team in three years with the program.

“It seems like, especially late in games, the pressure doesn’t bother them too much and they seem to do a good job [from the free-throw line],” said Golden.

Ronnie Wright finished with a double-double for Mortimer Jordan with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Burns scored 13 points and Branson Swindle provided 12 points of his own.

For Corner, Nolan Berger scored 9 points to go with 16 from Manning.  

The Gardendale boys basketball team (14-6, 3-0 Class 6A, Area 11) maintained its unblemished area record Tuesday night with a 58-53 road win at Carver-Birmingham. Sophomore Jalon Moore scored 16 points for the Rockets to go with seven points apiece from Kameron Burkett and Goose Crowder.

The Rockets also scored a 59-41 area win over Jackson-Olin last Friday at home. Clayton Cunningham and Moore led the offensive effort with 15 and 14 points respectively. 

The Gardendale girls basketball team (5-17, 0-3 Class 6A, Area 11) has slipped to 0-3 in area play thanks to a 48-33 loss at Carver-Birmingham on Tuesday.

The Rockets also came up a little short at home last Friday, falling to Jackson-Olin by a count of 38-33, but bounced back with a 49-36 win over Jasper Monday.

The Fultondale boys basketball team (13-2, 3-0 Class 3A, Area 9) took down Oak Grove 88-78 in triple overtime last Friday and handled Tarrant 66-51 at home Monday. Jaylon Hicks posted 33 points, nine rebounds and six assists against the Tigers. Point guard Camron Silmon scored 19 points to go with 11 assists and six rebounds for Fultondale and Willie Smith scored 14 points against Oak Grove. 

Sophomore Josh Maston scored 15 points against Tarrant.

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

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