The tradition that looms over today’s St. Jude Pirates came to life late last week.
JaMychal Green said few words to the team when he visited Friday, but his presence remains, an inspiration for what the Pirates hope to do.
“He makes us take our game to another level,” junior guard LaDarius Brinson said after Jude’s 67-47 win over Pickens County in Monday’s Class 1A Central Regional semifinals.
“We want to continue his legacy,” Brinson said. “He won two in three years and, with me having another year after this, I want to do the same.”
Green graduated from St. Jude and was Mr. Basketball in 2008. His No. 32 jersey is memorialized in a corner of the school’s gym, the number never to be worn again.
Green, currently with the NBDL’s Austin Toros, was in town last week during the NBA All-Star break.
“Any time I need him, he’s there for me,” said Jude junior Tommy Burton, who regularly talks or texts with Green and had a small 1-on-1 session with Green last week.
“He makes me work.”
Burton, Brinson and Andrew Rogers played major roles Monday to help the Pirates (25-6) knock off the three-time defending state champion Pirates (18-8).
No. 1 St. Jude — which has never lost a regional championship game — will play No. 4 Keith at 8 p.m. Thursday for the regional title.
Neither has lost to a 1A school this season.
“I hope we’re prepared,” Pirates coach Earl Taylor said. “We’re going to have to play better than we did (Monday).”
Jude is 9-0 in regional finals.
“That’s a lot of pressure,” Brinson said. “We want to keep that going, and we’re going to have to work hard at it.
“We can’t let our alumni down.”
Burton scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, Andrew Rogers totaled 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Brinson added 12 points for the Pirates on Monday.
Bobby Bradford had 20 points for the Tornadoes, who had won 24 straight playoff games and trailed just 40-35 after three quarters.
St. Jude shot 58 percent in the second half, including 67 percent in the fourth quarter. Brinson had six points and three assists in the final period.
“We follow behind him,” Burton said. “When he makes good passes and we finish, that’s when we get going.”
Keith 71, Loachapoka 37
Anfernee Simmons scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead the Bears (21-10), who led 40-14 at halftime.
“People said last year, ‘Coach, it’s you and St. Jude,’ but we never got an invitation to that dance,” said Keith coach Tommy Tisdale, whose team lost in its area semifinals last season.
“I’ve always said if we get there, we get there. We can’t look ahead. Hopefully, we’ll have a good game plan and be ready to play.”
Jywan Moss had 12 points for Loachapoka (13-9).