The Eagles pressed the Golden Eagles and rallied from as much as a 9-point deficit. Matthew Watkins banked home the game-tying 3-pointer, and Brad Robertson capped off a big second half with two free throws with 14.9 seconds to play.
Hokes Bluff won 43-41 in its gym for a milestone area title.
“It’s tremendous to win the regular-season and area tournament championship,” Hokes Bluff coach Greg Watkins said. “Since I’ve been the head basketball coach here, 17 years, we haven’t done it.”
Hokes Bluff improved to 20-9 headed into Friday’s home sub-regional matchup with Munford.
Jacksonville (14-13) earned a sub-regional berth by virtue of its 54-53 victory over Alexandria in Friday’s first-round Area 11 action. The Golden Eagles will play at Anniston.
Anniston beat Munford 51-46 in Monday’s Area 10 final at Anniston.
“This shows us what we need to work on in practice,” said Jacksonville’s Des Curry, who scored a game-high 21 points Monday. “We’ll have to get after it this week, and, hopefully, we can come out with a win on Friday.”
Curry had a chance to force overtime Monday but missed a pull-up jumper. Teammate Dakota Doss rebounded and missed a rushed putback attempt at the buzzer.
“I told Des, ‘You may have to pass it,’” Jacksonville coach Anthony Kingston said. “They blocked him last time with somebody coming out of nowhere, and we definitely want him to get his open, but we could have another pass for maybe an even better shot.”
The two misses at the end typified the night for Jacksonville. The Golden Eagles came in wanting to press and speed up the pace, hoping to minimize 7-foot-2 Hokes Buff center Isaac Haas’ impact.
Haas finished with seven points, 11 rebounds and four blocks before a crowd that included Alabama coach Anthony Grant, but Jacksonville did manage to force 17 turnovers — 10 in the first half.
But Jacksonville struggled to make those turnovers count for points. Playing against a mixture of 2-3 zone and man-to-man, the Golden Eagles shot just 28 percent (14-for-50) from the floor.
“Our execution in the offense was just horrible, to be completely honest,” Kingston said. “I give all the credit do them, because they got us out of our rhythm.
“… We just had no movement. Des and Sid (Thurmond) are our primary ball handlers, but nobody else was stepping to the open area.”
Hokes Bluff gambled from late in the third quarter on. Down 32-23, the Eagles pressed and started trapping out of their 2-3 zone, harassing Curry out top with two chasers.
Jacksonville committed four turnovers and made just two of 14 shots in the fourth quarter.
“We were just searching for ways to try to change the tempo of the game,” Greg Watkins said. “Anthony does a super job in half-court offense, and they were kind of dictating the tempo of the game.
“It was one of those deals where we did it to change the momentum, a little bit, of the game, and it made us attack the basket a little more.”
Robertson did most of the attacking. He scored twice on drives through the teeth of Jacksonville’s defense and hit a 3-pointer to bring Hokes Bluff within 36-34.
Robertson also hit six of seven free throws and wound up scoring all of his team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“He stepped up and made big shots,” Kingston said. “I didn’t know he could make 3s. I knew he had the penetrating game, and he was hard-nosed, and he made almost all of his free throws. He was a difference maker tonight.”
No single shot was bigger than Matthew Watkins’ banked 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 41-41 with 32.6 seconds left.
“I’d been thinking the whole game, ‘If I could get a good look, I could knock one down,’” he said. “I didn’t think it would be like that.”
The shot made going home a little nicer for the younger Watkins, who finished with seven points.
“That was my son, and he had just turned it over the play before,” Greg Watkins said. “I told him, ‘You’re very lucky that shot went in.’ It bailed him out because I was real upset with him for bringing the ball down and letting them steal it.”
Robertson was Hokes Bluff’s lone double-figure scorer, but the Eagles were the most efficient team, shooting 48 percent (14-29) from the floor.
Jacksonville got 11 points from Thurmond and Clingan had 10 rebounds. The Golden Eagles hope to rebound Friday for a berth in the Northeast Regional.
“This team is a young team,” Kingston said. “We only have three guys who played a lot last year. Everybody else is brand new to varsity basketball.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.