Winning a region championship isn’t supposed to be easy, but the John Milledge Academy boys basketball team has certainly made it look that way this season.
The Trojans (23-1) capped off a perfect 2020-21 region campaign when they manhandled Bethlehem Christian Academy 60-30 Friday night.
Head coach David Gallagher’s team ran over Region 4-AAA competition this season, beating all comers by an average margin of victory of 26.4 points with only two teams getting within single digits. The region title is the program’s fourth in the last five years after last season’s runner-up finish.
“We’ve been preaching to the guys all year that we want to peak at the right time,” Gallagher said following postgame celebration. “We have definitely found our identity and stuck to it. Our bread and butter is defense, and that showed up for us big time tonight.”
JMA sophomore Briggs Eady set the tone with a steal and layup on the game’s opening possession, and that’s how a lot of the first quarter would go. Eady and twin brother Banks were defensive pests all night long, never allowing the visiting Knights of Bethlehem Christian across half-court without a little harassment. John Milledge shot out to a 12-0 lead before the opening period’s midway point, forcing BCA to call a timeout. That settled the visitors down a little, but their hole would only get deeper and deeper as the game wore on.
The tournament host Trojans dazzled the crowd in the second quarter. First a smooth Marcus Prestwood spin and one-handed shot in transition stoked the fans’ fire. Shortly after, Banks Eady tracked down the ball before it went out of bounds and sent it back into play for what became a perfect no-look pass to teammate Jalan Butts who finished the play from there. If the Knights did not already know that Friday was not going to be their night to shine, they certainly should have after those highlight plays. The Trojans carried a 39-16 lead into the locker room at halftime and kept the train rolling from there, winning the second half (which included a mercy rule-shortened fourth quarter) 21-14.
Prestwood led all scorers on the night with 26 points, helped along by a couple of three-point plays the hard way. He’s been John Milledge’s main threat all season due in large part to his ability to finish inside the lane. Banks Eady and Butts both added 11 points apiece in the region championship victory.
“I want the guys to enjoy this,” Gallagher said. “We’ve been blessed to be here in recent years, but it ain’t easy and it’s never guaranteed. The guys have earned the right to be here and win this, so I want them to celebrate and wake up tomorrow to get ready for the next step. Our run isn’t done yet.”
Normally a region title would come with a No. 1 seed entering the state playoffs. The GISA is doing things a little differently this year having instituted a power ranking system as determined by online high school sports tracker, MaxPreps. The top 16 teams earn a state tournament berth, and the Trojans wound up second behind Creekside Christian Academy in the final rankings. The John Milledge boys are matched up against 15th-seeded Dominion Christian entering the postseason. The two teams are set to square off at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday inside JMA’s Trojan Center.