“This was a special group of players,” Eden said of his team, which finished 20-9. “We’re going to lose four seniors, but this junior and senior class. I knew this last year and even the year before when they were on the B-team that they were a good group. They won the B-team (St. Clair) county championship.”
Ragland captured the Class 1A, Area 11 title, and blew out Faith Christian in the Northeast regional final. They downed Collinsville in the regional semifinals before losing to eventual state-finalist Cedar Bluff in the regional final at Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Now, The Star has recognized Eden as its Area Coach of the Year.
Ragland guard KiJana Lindsay was a first-team choice to the All-Area team after leading the Purple Devils with 13.4 points per game to go along with 3.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.6 steals. Junior post player Cody Jones, who was good for 12.9 points per game, was named to the second team.
“I was very pleased with the way the season turned out,” Eden said. “They worked hard and it really started in the offseason. I’m still looking for them to do big things next year.”
The Purple Devils went undefeated against Class 1A competition until they met up with Cedar Bluff, led by Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball Candidate DeAngelo Hardy. Their schedule included plenty of tough competition, including a dozen games against teams in higher classifications.
The Purple Devils were in the midst of a four-game losing streak, heading into the area tournament. Ashville (3A) downed them 45-35 in the St. Clair County tournament then they dropped three more to Westbrook Christian (2A) and Hokes Bluff (3A) at home before losing against Ashville on the road.
“We wanted to be prepared,” Eden said.
They recovered nicely, stringing together four-straight playoff victories.
Ragland’s appearance at the regional tournament this season was its first since 2009 when it lost to Asbury by double-digits in the semifinals.
Eden said the success the Purple Devils had on the gridiron this past fall, reaching the state semifinals where they lost to eventual champion Marion County helped fuel their run on the hardwood this past winter.
“They’re good athletes,” Eden said. “They’ve played together since grade school, and they’re very unselfish. They pull for each other.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. Reach him at 256-235-3575. On Twitter: birds_word.